Europe: Pahars struggling at Skonto; Summer Leagues Review
Many of Europe’s major leagues are currently coming to a conclusion and Stoppage Time – International Football Blog shall cover them in depth when they have all finished. In the meantime there are a number of domestic championships which are in their infancy and will take up some of the spotlight during the summer months.
In Latvia defending champions Skonto Riga have got off to a dreadful start having lost four of their first nine games. This weekend saw Skonto FC, under the command of club playing legend Marians Pahars, lose for the second game in a row losing 1-0 to newly-promoted FB Gulbene-2005 with Arevshat Khachatryan’s 75th minute proving decisive. The defeat meant that Skonto are already twelve points adrift of league leaders FK Ventspils and seemingly have no chance of winning the championship so early in the season. FK Ventspils, who had the weekend off, lead the way on 25 points after nine games along with Liepājas Metalurgs, who have played one game more, following the latter’s 3-1 win away at FC Jurmala. FC Daugava, from Latvia’s second city of Daugavpils, currently occupy third place, five points behinds the leaders, having demolished Olimps Riga by six goals to nil.
In the neighbouring Baltic states it’s a case of as you were with defending champions FK Ekranas and Flora Tallinn topping the table in Lithuania and Estonia respectively with unbeaten records. FK Ekranas, six times winners of Lithuania’s A Lygaincluding the last three championships, got the better of FK Suduva Marijampole at the weekend with an Andrius Velicka goal separating the two teams. In Estonia’s Meistrilliga FC Flora, who won their first league title for seven years in 2010, were grateful to an 86th minute winner from Sergei Mosnikov on Saturday, his goal making it 2-1 in their home tie against Paide Linameeskond who remain third from bottom following this defeat. Another team predictably topping the table with an unbeaten record is BATE Borisov in the Belarussian Premier League. They have a healthy seven point lead over three teams despite drawing 0-0 this weekend to fifth place FK Gomel. With seven wins and four draws from their first eleven games BATE already look well placed to secure a sixth consecutive championship.
In Scandinavia, things aren’t quite so predictable at the moment in Norway’s Tippeligaen and Finland’s Veikkausliiga. Norwegian champions Rosenborg Trondheim are currently languishing in eleventh place and their 1-1 draw away at ninth place FK Start last Thursday certainly didn’t help their cause too much. There are three teams separated by just one point at the summit of the table right now with Tromsø, Strømsgodset (both played 8, points 16)and Stabæk all enjoying victories against Viking Stavanger, Brann Bergen and Odd Grenland Skien respectively in the last round of matches. In Finland champions HJK Helsinki are in third place and, having lost 2-0 away at IFK Mariehamn on Sunday, are now four points behind league leaders JJK Jyväskylä (played 6, points 16). The surprise leaders so far kept their unbeaten record in tact with a 2-0 win at home to Kuopio today and they retain their three point advantage over nearest challengers Inter Turku won won an eventful game 4-3 against Rovaniemi PS.
B36 Tórshavn (played 9, points 21) lead the way in the Faroe Islands with a four point margin separating them from NSÍ Runavík and Vikingur in the early stages of the Vodafonedeildin. In nearby Iceland the table is currently led by KR Reykjavik (played 5, points 11) who remain the only unbeaten team in the Pepsideildin following this weekend’s 1-1 draw at Stjarnan F.C. Finally the Airtricity League in the Republic of Ireland sees defending champions Shamrock Rovers (played 13, points 28) enjoy a two point lead over second place Sligo Rovers, who have played a game more, following 3-0 victories for both teams at home to Drogheda United and Galway United respectively.