Baltic States: Skonto increase gap over Ventspils; Leagues Review
The business end of the season is about to begin in each of the Baltic States. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reviews the latest action from Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.
Skonto Riga took a decisive step towards winning their first LMT Virslīga title since 2004 when defeating FK Ventspils in today’s top of the table clash in Latvia. Turkmenistani international Ruslan Mingazov scored the decisive goal for record champions Skonto in front of a home crowd of 2000 at Skonto Stadions and they now increase the lead at the top of the table over second place Ventspils to six points with nine matches to play. Defending champions Liepājas Metalurgs are just two points further behind after they easily overcame the challenge of FC Tranzīts with goals from Deniss Rakels, Marques De Souza, Pāvels Mihadjuks and Vitālijs Barinovs (own goal) securing a 4-0 win. FC Daugava Daugavpils are still a comfortable fourth place but they will rue two dropped points in an exciting 3-3 draw against Latvian Cup holders FK Jelgava. FC Daugava were coasting with a three goal lead after an hour but Jelgava fought back with Vladislavs Kozlovs scoring a hat-trick with the final two goals coming in the last two minutes of the game. The other two matches on Matchday 18 saw a Riga derby involving JFK/Olimps and FK Jaunība finish in a 2-2 draw whilst FK Jūrmala-VV and SK Blāzma Rēzekne were involved in a goalless stalemate. Now that two-thirds of the season has been played each team plays the other nine in the league one more time with the fixtures being determined by virtue of league placings at this stage, therefore the top five teams have five home games each from their remaining nine matches.
WATCH SKONTO RIGA v FK VENTSPILS HIGHLIGHTS HERE:
Estonia’s Meistriliiga is the tightest out of the three championships at the moment with Tallinn rivals FC Flora and FC Levadia maintaining their challenges for the title with victories over JK Sillamäe Kalev and FC Trans Narva respectively. FC Flora lead the table with 69 points from 27 matches after their 3-0 home defeat of Sillamäe with Hannes Anier bagging a brace which sandwiched Sander Post’s strike on the hour mark. Levadia, champions for the last four seasons, are just two points behind Flora but have played one game more. They kept up the chase on Flora by defeating FC Trans also by a 3-0 scoreline but the match turned on 38 minutes after FC Trans’ Tomas Rimas was sent off with the resulting penalty being converted by Levadia’s Konstantin Nahk. Deniss Malov and Artjom Dmitrijev sealed the game in the second half to keep the title race on a knife edge.
In Lithuania’s A Lyga the league leadership changed hands this weekend. FK Sūduva were the leaders going into Matchday 20 but they were surprisingly beaten 2-1 at home to FK Kruoja Pakruojis and they made to pay for this mishap as FK Ekranas took full advantage on Sunday with a 5-0 win at home to FK Klaipėda with Dominykas Galkevičius scoring a hat-trick for the new league leaders. FK Ekranas have 48 points from 20 games with FK Sūduva trailing them by two points. FK Žalgiris Vilnius, who didn’t play this weekend, are a further five points behind but have a game in hand.