Baltic States: Old order restored in Baltic League (+video)
The 2010-11 Triobet Baltic League (TBL) has now concluded its first knockout round and for the Estonian clubs it has ultimately proven not to be as joyous as one would have first thought after the first leg. All five clubs from Estonia won their first leg ties and gave hope that some new forces would emerge in the competition. However clubs from Latvia and Lithuania restored the old order and made sure that they both got some decent representation in the quarter-finals.
The old guard of Estonian football, FC Flora and FC Levadia, are the only representatives remaining from the most northern of the Baltic States following the first round action. FC Flora, who have just celebrated becoming Estonian Meistriliiga champions for the first time since 2003, wrapped up a good year by going through on away goals in a tough encounter against last season’s losing TBL finalists FK Sūduva. The Lithuanians won this week’s second leg at home by 3-2 but this wasn’t enough as they were defeated 2-1 in the first leg in Tallinn and so it was Flora who went through courtesy of two away goals to one. FC Levadia, who saw their four year reign as Estonian champions end this week, at least ended the season on a high after a 5-3 home win against Latvians SK Blāzma Rēzekne secured a 6-3 aggregate victory.
The three other Estonian teams all endured disappointment following encouraging first leg matches. None more so than Trans Narva who, following a 5-1 home victory against Lithuanians FK Šiauliai, crumbled in the away leg to a 5-0 reverse and, therefore, suffered a 6-5 aggregate defeat. Sillamäe Kalev, 2-1 winners in their first leg match to Latvian Cup finalists FK Jūrmala-VV, conceded goals at the start and the end of the second leg to go down 2-0 in the match, 3-2 on aggregate. Last season’s Triobet Baltic League champions FK Ventspils were given a fright by Estonians JK Nõmme Kalju who led 2-1 from the first leg and who made the Latvians sweat it out for their 4-1 second leg victory. Nonetheless the champions passed the first test of their title defence and will hope to become the first team to defend the trophy.
In the three games not involving Estonian clubs newly crowned Latvian champions Skonto Riga had to scrap to a 3-2 aggregate victory over Lithuanian side FK Tauras with all of the goals coming in the first leg. FK Ekranas Panevėžys, who were crowned Lithuanian champions for the third year in a row in 2010, strolled to a 4-0 aggregate win over JFK Olimps/RFS of Latvia whilst the final game of the round came today with Liepājas Metalurgs getting the better of FK Banga by four goals to two on aggregate.
The Triobet Baltic League takes a break until April when the last eight do battle for the coveted title. The pick of the games will be the battle of the champions of Latvia and Lithuania, namely Skonto Riga and FK Ekranas respectively, whilst another standout tie involves Estonian champions FC Flora against defending TBL champions FK Ventspils. Levadia Tallinn take on FK Šiauliai whilst, in an all-Latvian tie, Liepājas Metalurgs take on FK Jūrmala-VV to complete the line-up.
WATCH FK SIAULIAI v TRANS NARVA 2nd LEG HIGHLIGHTS HERE: