Latvia: Skonto triumph in Round of 16; Cup Review
Latvian Virslīga leaders Skonto Riga played out a tough game today in the Latvian Cup Round of 16 overcoming Pirmā līga (2nd tier) leaders FB Gulbene-2005 by three goals to two. Unbeaten in the second division with a ten point lead with five matches to play, FB Gulbene -2005 have already pretty much sealed the title so this was always going to be a potential banana skin for the record seven time cup winners Skonto. In front of a 2,150 crowd at the home of the 2nd division leaders Skonto seemed to be strolling when taking a two goal lead after 27 minutes thanks to strikes from Latvian international Andrejs Perepļotkins and Denills Turkovs but, with ten minutes to go before the break, Gulbene pulled one back through Vladimirs Kamešs. Alexandrs Starkovs men regained a two goal cushion when another Latvian international, Aleksandrs Cauņa, struck just after the hour mark and it looked as if Skonto would dominate the match until the end but FB Gulbene-2005 had other ideas and made Skonto sweat as stoppage time approached thanks to Minori Sato’s 89th minute goal. Sadly, for the home team, time ran out before they could find an equalizer and Skonto came through and qualified for the Latvian Cup quarter-finals which take place after the new year.
There were four other matches in Latvia’s knockout competition on Sunday. 2006 winners Liepājas Metalurgs left it late to dispose of fellow top flight outfit SK Blāzma Rēzekne in their Round of 16 clash with Andrejs Prohorenkovs clinching the victory with just two minutes to go and, thus, spare his side a further thirty minutes of extra-time and, potentially, a penalty shoot-out. Two teams that did have to endure the lottery of penalties were JFK Olimps/RFS and 2009-10 cup finalists FK Jūrmala-VV. The latter lost out to FK Jelgava in the 2009-10 cup final by virtue of a penalty shoot-out (click on the Away Days section to read my report from that game) but were to experience victory this out after the game remained goalless after 120 minutes. Former Arsenal FC player Igors Stepanovs scored the deciding penalty after JFK Olimps’ Reinis Broders had missed his crucial seventh spot kick and, thus, saw FK Jūrmala-VV win the shoot-out 7-6. In a tale of two Daugavas there was an upset in Riga where 2nd division FK Daugava Riga turned over top flight FK Tranzits by three goals to one whilst FC Daugava from the city of Daugavpils easily disposed of Otrā Līga (3rd tier) side FC Salaspils with a 10-0 scoreline, Mamuka Ghonghadze starring with a hat-trick whilst Andrejs Kovaļovs and Valērijs Afanasjevs both bagged a brace in the rout.
Three more Round of 16 matches take place in October with three Virslīga sides facing off against three teams from the Pirmā Līga. Four times cup winners FK Ventspils meet 2nd division FK Spartaks in Jūrmalā, FK Jaunība Riga face an away trip to 2nd division Valmeiras FK/BBS and defending Latvian Cup holders FK Jelgava start the defence of their title when they travel to play FS Metta/LU.FK Jaunība