It’s been a long hard season in the top domestic leagues across Europe and Stoppage Time – International Football Blog looks across the continent to review another exciting year for European league football. In the first of three parts we look at the winners and losers from Albania to France.
Skënderbeu Korçë claimed only their second ever Albanian championship crown having seen off the challenge of Flamurtari Vlorë, winning the title with a seven point margin. Their reward for capturing the title is a tilt at the UEFA Champions League next season whilst Flamurtari Vlorë and Vllaznia Shkodër qualify for the UEFA Europa League along with Albanian Cup winners KF Tirana who won the trophy for the 14th time following a penalty shoot-out win over neighbours Dinamo Tirana. KS Elbanasi and Beja Kavajë drop into the second division next season.
FC Santa Coloma won their second consecutive championship, their 6th overall, by pipping nearest challengers UE Sant Julià by a four point margin in a tightly fought contest. UE Sant Julià got some consolation by getting their hands on the Andorran Cup for the third time following a 3-1 win over UE Santa Coloma (not to be confused with champions FC Santa Coloma). The cup finalists and FC Lusitanos will compete in the UEFA Europa League next season whilst FC Encamp and CE Benfica go through the trapdoor having finished in the bottom two places.
Sturm Graz ensured that the recent domination of the Austrian Bundesliga by Red Bull Salzburg came to a premature end by beating the back-to-back champions of the last two seasons to the title by three points. This was Sturm’s first title in just over a decade and their third overall and will see them into next season’s UEFA Champions League. Red Bull Salzburg and Austria Vienna will feature in the UEFA Europa League along with Austrian Cup winners SV Ried whose 2-0 win over Austria Lustenau saw them clinch only their second cup triumph. With only one team going down into the second division that unfortunate position fell upon bottom club LASK Linz.
WATCH AUSTRIAN CUP FINAL HIGHLIGHTS HERE:
Neftchi Baku won their sixth title by seven points from arch-rivals Khazar Lankaran who, in turn, had the pleasure of claiming the Azerbaijan Cup with a penalty shoot-out victory over deposed league champions Inter Baku following a 1-1 draw. Khazar Lankaran will play in the UEFA Europa League in 2011-12 along with FK Qarabağ and AZAL Baku whilst at the bottom end of the table Simurq PFC and MOIK Baku see themselves relegated into the second tier.
In contrast to last season, the 2010-11 Jupiler League saw an exciting finish with only goal difference separating eventual champions Racing Genk from unlucky runners-up Standard Liège. RSC Anderlecht topped the table after the regular season but faded in the Championship Play-Off group allowing Genk and Standard, Belgium’s representatives for the 2011-12 UEFA Champions League, to overtake them in the final straight. Genk claimed their 3rd league title whilst Standard had to settle for their 6th Belgian Cup win following a 2-0 win over Westerlo. The losing cup finalists will play in the Europa League along with Anderlecht and Club Brugge. Charleroi and KAS Eupen are the two clubs who will go down into the Eerste Divisie next season.
Borac Banja Luka finally won their maiden league title this season with a seven point gap separating them from nearest challengers FK Sarajevo. Željezničar finished the season in third place and won the Bosnia-Herzegovina Cup following a two-legged aggregate 4-0 score against NK Čelik Zenica and will join FK Sarajevo and 4th place Široki Brijeg in the Europa League. FK Budućnost Banovići and Drina Zvornik fall through the cellar door into the second division next season.
SEE BORAC BANJA LUKA SECURE THE TITLE AGAINST ZELJEZNICAR HERE:
Litex Lovech are back-to-back champions in Bulgaria’s A PFG League, claiming a fourth title overall, having held off the challenge of Levski Sofia. For Litex player Svetoslav Todorov it was especially sweet as he has been involved in each of his side’s four league triumphs. CSKA Sofia won the Bulgarian Cup for the 11th time with a 1-0 win over Slavia Sofia thanks to a Spas Delev goal just six minutes before half-time. They will join Levski and Lokomotiv Sofia in the Europa League whilst, at the bottom end of the table, OFC Sliven and Akademik Sofia are relegated – VR Sevlievo may join them depending on the result of their play-off match on June 12th.
Dinamo Zagreb‘s continued dominance of the Croatian Prva Liga meant a sixth straight title success for the country’s most successful club. Their 13th post-independence league title was won at a canter with a 17 point gap over arch-rivals Hajduk Split. They secured the double following an easy Croatian Cup win over six-time losing finalists NK Varaždin who they disposed off with an 8-2 aggregate victory over two legs. Hajduk, RNK Split and Varaždin qualify for Europa League football but it’s a different story for Hrvatski Dragovljac, Istra 1961 and Lokomotiva Zagreb who all drop into the second division next season.
Record champions APOEL Nicosia won a 21st title, their second in three years, thanks in no small part to defeating nearest challengers Omonia Nicosia three times during the season, helping to establish an overall margin of eleven points at the season’s end. Omonia consoled themselves with a 13th win in the Cypriot Cup but had to do it the hard way with a 1-1 draw leading to a penalty shoot-out. Omonia, Anorthosis Famagusta and AEK Larnaca are in the Europa League next season but AEP Paphos are the sole club to experience the pain of relegation having finished bottom just three points behind Ermis Aradippou.
Viktoria Plzeň scraped their way to a maiden Gambrinus Liga title by just a single point having been made to work hard for their title by nearest rivals Sparta Prague. The champions only lost three games all season but Sparta’s superior number of wins, 22 to Viktoria’s 21, still counted for nothing as the title was decided on the final day. Sparta Prague, along with Jablonec and Mlada Boleslav, must be content with Europa League football in 2011-12 with the latter celebrating their maiden Czech Cup victory having beaten Sigma Olomouc in a penalty shoot-out following a 1-1 draw. FK Ústí nad Labem and Zbrojovka Brno, having finished in the bottom two, are the teams who will go down into the second division next season.
SEE VIKTORIA PLZEN’S TITLE CELEBRATIONS HERE:
The most dominant championship winning team in the whole of Europe this season were undoubtedly FC København. The defending champions lost only two matches all season as they walked to a 9th Superliga title, getting the better of second place Odense Boldklub by a massive 26 points. At least “OB” have the consolation of joining the champions in next season’s Champions League qualifying rounds. The Danish Cup final was a repeat of the previous year with FC Nordsjælland defeating opponents FC Midtjylland once again, Søren Christensen’s stoppage time goal sealing a thrilling 3-2 win. Both cup finalists will join Brøndby IF in the Europa League whilst Esbjerg fB and Randers FC face demotion to the second league.
Lille OSC pulled off a remarkable double triumph this season securing their first wins in both league and cup for the first time in over fifty years. Their first title since 1954 came courtesy of an eight point margin of victory over runners up Olympique Marseille who at least had the consolation of winning a second successive League Cup final by defeating Montpellier HSC 1-0 in the final. Lille’s double triumph comes complete with a first French Cup victory since 1955 after beating Paris Saint Germain 1-0 with a late Ludovic Obraniak goal sealing a sixth triumph in this competition. Lille, Marseille and Olympique Lyonnais have the Champions League places while Paris SG, Sochaux and Rennes make-do with the Europa League spots. At the bottom end the biggest shock was seeing seven-times French champions AS Monaco face up to the anguish of relegation and they will join Arles-Avignon and Racing Lens in Ligue 2 next season.
SEE LILLE’S WINNING GOAL IN THE FRENCH CUP FINAL HERE:
Just when FIFA President Sepp Blatter had the chance to reassure any sceptics that he is the right man to lead world football’s governing body for a fourth straight term along comes a bizarre performance from him in a specially arranged press conference at FIFA House in Zurich this evening.
With allegations of corruption and civil war breaking out within the upper echelons of what Blatter himself calls “the FIFA family”, today’s press conference was supposed to show the world that the president elect was on message and would reassure football fans and the waiting press that he was the man for the job. However once the press conference got under way he put a brave face on the current problems affecting FIFA by stating that the sport and the organisation was “not in a crisis” but only suffering some “difficulties” whilst insisting that any problems would be solved “inside our family”. This was too much to bear for some reporters who shouted him down at the end of what will go down as one of Blatter’s more brazen performances, continually answering most of the journalists’ questions with answers one could only describe as being like a default setting.
Before the press conference began news had come through that the two suspended FIFA members at the heart of corruption allegations, Mohamed Bin Hammam and Jack Warner, would appeal their suspensions. Later on there was more news involving FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke who will now have to answer questions regarding an email he had sent to Warner regarding the legality of Qatar’s successful 2022 FIFA World Cup hosting bid and which could be used as a stick with which to implicate Blatter in further investigations. The irony about Blatter’s press conference today was that the more he talked about transparency the more he dodged questions about any of the central figures involved in the case.
In the current climate this is a very sad indictment on what FIFA has become and against what FIFA wishes to stand for, Respect and Fair Play.
Following their fourth UEFA Champions League triumph on Saturday virtually every superlative has been used to describe Pep Guardiola’s current crop of FC Barcelona stars. The Catalans’ 3-1 triumph over Manchester United meant that Guardiola, in only his third full season in charge at the Camp Nou, has won ten major trophies including the amazing Sextuple triumph from the 2008-09 season. Are they, in your opinion, the best side ever? Or is there really a team that came before who deserve the accolade of the best ever? Decide from the following choices:
REAL MADRID 1956-60
The team who took to the concept of the European Cup more than any other, the great Real Madrid side from the mid 50’s were European champions in the first five years of the competition. As well as winning two La Liga titles at home los Blancos had one of the greatest forward lines in the history of football including the likes of Alfredo Di Stéfano and Ferenc Puskás who scored all seven goals between them in the club’s most famous win of the famous five, the 1959-60 European Cup final against Eintracht Frankfurt which they won 7-3 in front of a record 127,000 crowd at Hampden Park, Glasgow. The club also became the first unofficial world champions in 1960 after defeating South American champions Peñarol in the inaugural Intercontinental Cup match.
The Italians were never also easy on the eye with their defensive brand of football, widely known as Catenaccio, winning few friends amongst their opponents. However the team known affectionately amongst all Nerazzurri supporters as La Grande Inter won back-to-back European Cups in 1964 and 1965 defeating Real Madrid and Benfica respectively. As well as the 1964-65 Scudetto, Inter also became the first European team to win successive Intercontinental Cups beating Argentinians Independiente on both occasions.
AJAX AMSTERDAM 1971-73
Dutch football came to prominence in the early 1970’s with Feyenoord Rotterdam winning the European Cup in 1970 before their arch-rivals Ajax Amsterdam took their brand of Total Football to the international stage and won three successive European Cups. Players such as Johan Cruijff, Johnny Rep and Arie Haan took centre stage with final victories over Panathinaikos (1971), Internazionale (1972) and Juventus FC (1973), the latter as part of an historic treble, helping write the club’s name into the history books. Ajax also won the 1972 Intercontinental Cup against Independiente and were the inaugural UEFA Super Cup winners defeating Cup Winners’ Cup holders AC Milan in 1973.
FC BAYERN MÜNCHEN 1974-76
In a manner similar to the Ajax team that preceded them, FC Bayern won the European Cup three times in a row from 1974-76 with a team full of international greats such as Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Müller and Uli Hoeneß. Their maiden European Cup win against Atlético de Madrid was achieved in a replay, the first and only such occasion this occurred, before going on to beat Leeds United and Saint-Étienne in the following two years. The Bavarians also won the 1973-74 Bundesliga title and their first world title with a 1976 Intercontinental Cup win over Brazilians Cruzeiro.
LIVERPOOL FC 1977-81
Liverpool, under the astute guidance of Bob Paisley, won the European Cup three times in the space of five years, thus assuring the reluctant successor to Bill Shankly his place in football history as the first, and so far only coach, to have won the trophy on so many occasions. Liverpool were dominant at home during this time with three league championship wins in 1977, 1979 and 1980 complemented by European triumphs over Borussia Mönchengladbach (1977), Club Brugge (1978) and Real Madrid (1981) which were won with a dynamic team including the likes of Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness and Phil Neal.
AC MILAN 1988-90
Just three years after the acquisition of the club by controversial figure Silvio Berlusconi, AC Milan started to make a mark on the European scene once again with back-to-back European Cup wins over Steaua Bucharest (1989) and Benfica (1990). Having won the 1988 Scudetto the Rossoneri, led by coach Arrigo Sacchi along with his team of superstars including the Dutch trio of Marco Van Basten, Frank Rijkaard and Ruud Gullit as well as Italian legends such as Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini, began a spell of domination which also led to successive triumphs in the UEFA Super Cup and Intercontinental Cup.
MANCHESTER UNITED 1998-99
It is difficult to pinpoint any team over the last two decades which could stand out for Manchester United, such is the amount of success they’ve come to enjoy under the leadership of Sir Alex Ferguson. However the team which won the Treble in the 1998-99 season deserves special praise for their sheer will-to-win and ability to turn things around when all seemed lost. A team including most of the “Class of 92” such as Ryan Giggs, David Beckham and Gary Neville went on to claim the English league and cup double before winning an unlikely UEFA Champions League triumph over FC Bayern München as the Red Devils, who were a goal down as the game went into the 90th minute, somehow scored two goals deep into stoppage time to claim the club’s second European Cup. Six months later Roy Keane scored the winner for United as they claimed the Intercontinental Cup with a 1-0 win over Palmeiras.
FC BARCELONA 2008-11
The Catalan giants have enjoyed considerable success at home and abroad over time but the club underachieved in the European Cup for many years. Having only ever been champions of Europe twice before Pep Guardiola took the coaching job in 2008, FC Barcelona have finally started to realize their potential under the current coach who has guided the club to two UEFA Champions League finals and a semi-final in three years as well as winning a host of other trophies including a grand slam of Spanish League, Spanish Cup, Champions League, Spanish Super Cup, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup in 2009. With the likes of FIFA World Cup winners Xavi, Carles Puyol and Andres Iniesta as well as superstar Lionel Messi many predict that their dominance could continue for some time yet.
SO WHO GETS YOUR VOTE AS THE BEST?
The ongoing story regarding allegations of corruption at the very heart of world football’s governing body FIFA seems to have taken the game to an all-time low. Surely the only way for these allegations to be addressed is for an independent body to look at the crux of the matter and investigate every figure who is alleged to have been involved. With more questions than answers in a case which won’t go away the last thing that FIFA and its president Sepp Blatter should do is to bury their heads in the sand.
Even by the standards of the FIFA scandal there have been some very interesting developments in the last 24 hours. Mohamed Bin Hammam, head of the Asian Football Confederation and FIFA presidential candidate, announced on his personal website that he was officially withdrawing his candidacy, thus giving the current holder of the post Sepp Blatter free reign to win a fourth straight term of office unopposed. This, he explained, would allow him the opportunity to clear his name and he explained that he felt saddened at the state of events because he “cannot allow the name [i.e. FIFA] that I loved to be dragged more and more in the mud because of competition between two individuals.”
Then on Sunday afternoon came the news that both Bin Hammam and Jack Warner, the Vice-President of FIFA who is also at the centre of the allegation claims made by CONCACAF general secretary Chuck Blazer, have been suspended by the FIFA’s ethics committee who, despite protestations from Bin Hammam and Warner, also stated that “no investigation against Blatter is warranted”. Despite this it is arguably the case that the presidential election, which is to take place this coming Wednesday at FIFA’s 61st Annual Congress in Zurich, ought to be postponed in order to allow further examination of all claims made against each and every figure who has had allegations made against them. Even if it was to be concluded that very little, or indeed no, corruption ever took place the perception of FIFA amongst football fans around the world is the lowest that its ever been with high profile bureaucrats often accused of selling the game’s soul in exchange for huge financial incentives. A shake-up of FIFA from top to bottom and a review of its leadership structure is the very minimum that the organisation needs in order to restore public confidence at the game’s top body.
There will be a new name on the Copa Brasil trophy this year as Vasco da Gama and Coritiba secured semi-final, second leg wins on Wednesday night.
Vasco da Gama, one of Brazil’s biggest clubs, have surprisingly never won this tournament but have a great chance to add their name to the list of winners following their 3-1 aggregate defeat of Avaí FC. The first leg between the two sides finished 1-1 and with Avaí having home advantage in the return fixture it seemed that a shock could be on the cards. However a 3rd minute own goal from Avaí’s Revson soon settled any nerves in the Vasco team. A Diego Souza goal ten minutes before the break sealed the deal for Vasco whose only appearance to date in the Copa Brasil final came in 2006 where they lost out to arch-rivals Flamengo CF.
WATCH AVAI FC v VASCO DA GAMA 2ND LEG GOALS HERE:
Coritiba will feature in their first ever Copa final after they squeezed past Ceará SC with a 1-0 aggregate win. Following a goalless first leg both teams played out a tense match in which the first goal was always going to be crucial. Anderson Aquino opened the scoring five minutes into the second half and Coritiba never looked back as they put the heartbreak of three previous losing semi-finals behind them to qualify for their maiden final. Check out the footage taken live from inside the stadium below.
WATCH CORITIBA v CEARA GOAL HERE:
The Copa Brasil final will be a two-legged affair with the games played on Tuesday, June 1st and 8th.
Puerto Rico Islanders will face off against Haitian club Tempête FC in the final of the 2011 CFU Caribbean Club Championship.
Defending champions from last year, Puerto Rico Islanders are hoping to become the first team in over a decade to win back-to-back titles having overcome the challenge of Alpha United on Wednesday. With Guyana playing host to the semi-finals and final of this year’s competition Alpha United enjoyed home advantage against the champions. But the Islanders eventually proved too strong for United although they needed extra-time to overcome the Guyanese. Matthew Bouraee’s 23rd minute strike for the Islanders was cancelled out by United’s Dwain Jacobs with eight first half minutes remaining. But the crucial goals came in the second half of extra-time with Jonathan Faña and David Foley finally sealing the Islanders’ progress.
The Islanders’ opponents in the final will be Tempête FC who needed a penalty shoot-out to get past 2001 champions Defence Force from Trinidad & Tobago following a goalless 120 minutes. Rawle Fletcher and Anton Joseph were the unlucky culprits for Defence Force whose penalties failed to hit the net and thus handed the win to Tempête FC. The Haitian champions had a 100% conversion rate from their four spot kicks will now play in their first ever final which takes place at Providence Stadium in the Guyanese capital of Georgetown on Friday.
Panathinaikos have won the end of season play-offs, which determine who will be the second team to represent Greece in next season’s UEFA Champions League, having defeated AEK Athens by two goals to nil in tonight’s match.
Djibril Cissé was the hero for Panathinaikos who, having lost out to Olympiakos in the fight for the Super League title this season, were made to work hard for the second Champions League spot even though they started the play-off phase with a two point advantage over tonight’s opponents AEK. Nonetheless “Pana” knew that a win for them would clinch second and this they did thanks to French international Cissé who scored both of his goals within ten second half minutes.
In the other play-off game PAOK Thessaloniki did what they had to do to keep up the pressure on Pana in case of any slip ups by beating Olympiakos Volos with a comfortable 5-1 margin with goals for Dimitrios Salpingidis (2), Adelino Vieirinha, Diego Arias and Zlatan Muslimovic helping the home side ultimately clinch second place.
1. PANATHINAIKOS Played 6, Points 13
2. PAOK THESSALONIKI Played 6, Points 12
3. AEK ATHENS Played 6, Points 8
4 .OLYM. VOLOS Played 6, Points 6
As Chelsea FC lick their wounds after ending the 2010-11 season empty handed, much speculation continues as to the identity of the club’s new coach following the departure of Carlo Ancelotti. Much of the current speculation is pointing towards Guus Hiddink which is far from surprising considering that he led the club to FA Cup success in a caretaker capacity during the 2008-09 season after “Big Phil” Scolari was sacked by the club’s owner Roman Abramovitch. However if the Russian billionaire is really desperate for a top coach to come to Stamford Bridge then he shouldn’t look much further than former Liverpool FC coach Rafael Benítez.
Having owned Chelsea FC since 2003, Abramovitch has bought a galaxy of stars and hired and fired an assortment of managers in order to bring success to the west London club. This he has done with some aplomb having won three English Premier League titles, three FA Cups and two League Cups in that time. However there is a gaping hole in the Chelsea trophy cabinet which desperately needs filling and that can only be done with success in the UEFA Champions League. Having lost the 2007-08 final to English rivals Manchester United it is clear that Abramovitch really wants to win “Old Big Ears” and, in my opinion, Benítez would be the perfect choice.
After all, the Spanish coach began life with his former club Liverpool FC by winning the 2004-05 UEFA Champions League with a far inferior squad to the one he could potentially inherit at Stamford Bridge. Benítez, on many occasions, got the better of his arch-nemesis José Mourinho whilst the latter was Chelsea boss and proved himself on many a famous European night at Anfield with victories gained over such illustrious clubs like Real Madrid, Internazionale and Juventus FC. If there was anything that “Rafa the Gaffer” was particularly good at it was his ability to prepare for Champions League matches and his record of two finals, a semi-final and a quarter-final in Europe’s premier club competition stands that theory to the test.
But it isn’t just the European issue, important though that is, which should bring more attention to Benítez’s qualities as a coach. At Valencia CF he won two Spanish league championships in three years, as well as the 2003-04 UEFA Cup, and that team still remains the last one from outside the big two of Real Madrid and FC Barcelona to have triumphed in La Liga. Benítez also has FA Cup and European Super Cup triumphs to his name whilst at Liverpool and having run Manchester United close to the 2008-09 title it is clear that the Spaniard takes all challengers head on. If you take away the last 18 months of his time at Anfield his record is as good as most of the top coaches in Europe. One other important question to consider is this: if there is anyone who is going to bring out the best out of recent £50m Chelsea signing Fernando Torres, who flourished under Benítez while at Anfield, then surely that man is Benítez.
Think about it…….
The Round of 16 in the 2011 AFC Champions League was completed over the last two days.
South Korea remains the strongest nation in the competition with three clubs representing the K-League in the quarter-final stages. K-League title holders FC Seoul defeated record Japanese champions Kashima Antlers by three goals to nil with goals from Hwan, Dejan Damjanović and Ko sealing their passage through to the last eight. Suwon Samsung Bluewings also got the better of Japanese opposition having put two goals without reply past defending J-League champions Nagoya Grampus Eight thanks to strikes from Yeom Ki-Hun and Lee Sang-Ho. The third K-League team to progress was Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors whose 3-0 win over Tianjin Teda means that China has no further representation in this year’s competition. A brace from Eninho and a further strike from Lee Seung-Hyun did the damage for Jeonbuk who hope to win a second Asian title in five years. In the all-Japanese affair there was a local derby in the city of Osaka with Cerezo FC getting the better of rivals Gamba FC with a lone strike from Daisuke Takahashi in the 88th minute giving Cerezo FC the bragging rights.
WATCH CEREZO OSAKA’S WINNING GOAL HERE:
Sepahan FC, recently crowned Iran Pro League champions, and Zob Ahan will represent their country in the last eight having got the better of Bunyodkor and Al-Nassr respectively. Bunyodkor, Uzbekistan champions for the last three years, have high ambitions in this tournament but they failed once again following a 3-1 defeat in the Iranian city of Isfahan. Januário, Ibrahima Touré and Hadi Aghili scored the goals for Sepahan with Slavoljub Đorđević grabbing a consolation for the visitors. Zob Ahan got the better of Saudi Arabian side Al-Nassr with Igor Castro bagging a brace in his side’s 4-1 win. It proved to be a poor showing from Saudi clubs overall with Al-Shabab and Al-Hilal also going out but whereas the former went out to Al-Sadd, who are the only Qatari side remaining in the competition, Al-Hilal at least had the ‘pleasure’ of losing to compatriots Al-Ittihad.
WATCH SEPAHAN FC v BUNYODKOR FC GOALS HERE:
The quarter-finals, the draw for which has yet to be made, are expected to be played over two legs in September.
Two of Latvia’s biggest clubs, Skonto Riga and FK Ventspils, will meet in the Triobet Baltic League final which takes place on Saturday, June 18th.
Skonto Riga already had one foot in the final following their 5-0 drubbing of compatriots Liepājas Metalurgs in the semi-final, first leg and today’s second leg proved to be a drab affair. With very few people turning up to watch today’s game in the Baltic coastal town of Liepāja it is no surprise that there wasn’t a great deal of action to talk about. Antons Jemelins’ red card in the 76th minute hindered Metalurgs’ chances further which were put to the sword when the Riga side sealed a 1-0 win in the last minute of the match thanks to a goal from Arturs Karašausks. Skonto won the tie 6-0 on aggregate and who will play in their second Baltic League final hoping to triumph in the competition for the first time having lost to FBK Kaunas in the final of the 2008 edition.
Champions FK Ventspils also had a comfortable passage through to the final and hope to become the first team ever to successfully defend the title following their semi-final victory over Lithuanians FK Šiauliai. Having won the first leg by two goals to nil, FK Ventspils repeated the score in the return fixture on Tuesday with goals from Vladimirs Mukins (55th minute) and Oļegs Žatkins (81st minute) securing a 4-0 aggregate win for the Yellow-and-Blues who are in the midst of a potentially great season for the club. Currently leading the way in the Latvian Virsliga and having already won the Latvian Cup, FK Ventspils’ chances of a treble triumph are very high and for new coach Sergei Podpaly the Baltic title would be another step on the way to restoring Ventspils’ dominance in the country.
A fascinating final match awaits.
WATCH FK VENTSPILS v FK SIAULAI 2ND LEG HIGHLIGHTS HERE: