Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Europe: Skonto win Baltic Champions’ Cup

Posted in European Football by peterbein on January 9, 2011

Baltic Champions' CupLatvian champions Skonto Riga have added another honour into the trophy cabinet having won both of their games in this weekend’s Baltic Champions’ Cup.

Skonto wrapped up their 15th Latvian championship two months ago and this weekend’s indoor tournament was the perfect opportunity to begin preparing for next weekend’s CIS Cup, the tournament for former Soviet state champions, which takes place in St Petersburg. Skonto began the Champions’ Cup with a Friday evening match against Lithuanian champions FK Ekranas, the only previous winners of this trophy five years ago. The game was goalless until deep into the second half when Brazilian substitute Nathan Junior gave Skonto the lead in the 68th minute just sixty seconds after coming on for Evaldas Ražulis. Three minutes later Skonto had doubled their lead when Alexsandrs Fertovs slotted home from close range and the hosts were seemingly starting to coast the game. However there would be a slight scare six minutes from time when Aurimas Kučys pulled one back for the visitors but Skonto held out for the three points.

Estonian champions Flora Tallinn made their maiden appearance in this competition in the Saturday game against FK Ekranas who were hoping to restore some pride following the defeat to Skonto. However they would suffer further torment against Flora who dominated the game from start to finish in a heavy 6-1 rout of Lithuania’s A-Lyga holders. Hannes Anier opened the scoring after three minutes followed by a brace by Sander Post which gave Flora a commanding 3-0 lead inside the half hour mark. Ekranas pulled one back in the 37th minute through Nenad Panič only for Flora to restore the three goal margin just four minutes before the half-time interval through Sergei Mušnikov. It took a while before Flora completed the scoring but did so in fine style after substitute Rauno Alliku bagged a brace in the last ten minutes.

A winner-takes-all match was set up nicely for Sunday afternoon when the Latvian and Estonian champions faced off. Flora had the better goal difference before the game and, thus, could afford the draw if they were to win the title but Skonto had other ideas as they set their stall out very early with two goals in the first six minutes from Andrejs Perepļotkins and Renārs Rode. The game remained at 2-0 throughout the remainder of the first half with the score line extended midway through the second half when Nathan Junior helped himself to the third, giving Skonto a healthy lead. Flora, to their credit, showed some fight and were able to pull back two goals with Sander Post and Valeri Minkenen (penalty) setting up a grandstand finish with five minutes of normal time remaining. However it would be Skonto who would strike agin to make certain of the trophy when Junior bagged his second of the game three minutes into stoppage time. Skonto had won their first Baltic Champions’ Cup and still have hopes of doing a Baltic double later this year as they resume their Triobet Baltic League campaign in April.

Europe: Ekranas, Flora and Skonto look ahead to Baltic Champions’ Cup

Posted in European Football by peterbein on January 6, 2011

Baltic Champions Cup 2011The Baltic Champions’ Cup, the first of many a pre-season indoor tournament in Eastern Europe in the next two months, takes place in the Olympic Sports Centre in the Latvian capital of Riga this weekend in a mini-tournament exclusive to the national champions of the three domestic leagues in the Baltic States.

Lithuanian champions FK Ekranas Panevėžys already have experience in this competition having won the only other edition to have previously taken place in 2006. At that time the tournament was played outdoors and was a precursor to what would become the Triobet Baltic League (TBL) which is now the more established cross-border football tournament in that part of the world. Nonetheless FK Ekranas, who got the better of Liepājas Metalurgs and TVMK Tallinn in the inaugural event five years ago, now hope to add the scalps of Skonto Riga and Flora Tallinn to the list as they set about defending their crown.

The year 2010 was a great one for Latvian champions Skonto Riga and their Estonian counterparts Flora Tallinn who are both back in the big time following their first league title successes for six and seven years respectively. As well as this tournament they will participate in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Cup in January before renewing battle in the TBL come April. For all three clubs there is the added bonus of UEFA Champions League qualifiers to come this year so each of the teams involved will be very active in trans-national football comeptition in 2011.

This weekend’s tournament sees all of the teams play each other once only over three days. Here is the fixture list and local kick-off times for the event:

Friday 07/01/2011: Skonto Riga v FK Ekranas Panevėžys 17:45

Saturday 08/01/2011: FK Ekranas Panevėžys v Flora Tallinn 13:15

Sunday 09/01/2011: Flora Tallinn v Skonto Riga 13:45

Europe: Summer Leagues Special (+video)

Posted in European Football by peterbein on June 13, 2010
Aleksejs Višņakovs

Aleksejs Višņakovs was on the scoresheet for FK Ventspils in their 2-1 win at home to Skonto Riga

Although the focus for the next four weeks will heavily be centred upon South Africa and the FIFA World Cup, Stoppage Time – International Football Blog will continue providing the latest news in some of the European leagues which take place throughout the summer months. In Latvia yesterday there was a top of the table clash between FK Ventspils and Skonto Riga, Lithuania saw a new leader in the A Lyga championship race whilst in Estonia there are three teams on the same number of points at the top of the table. We also keep you up to date with the latest news from Belarus and Finland.

The biggest game of the weekend in Latvia was between FK Ventspils and record champions Skonto Riga, the latter having a six point lead over FKV before the match kicked off. A crowd of one thousand turned up for the game and, after a goalless first half, it was the home supporters who were cheering first in the 48th minute when Aleksejs Višņakovs received a long ball into the penalty box, controlled it neatly with his right foot and guided it home from ten yards out to give FKV the lead. Six minutes later and it got better for Nunzio Zavettieri’s Ventspils side when captain Grigory Chirkin received the ball midway inside his own half as Ventspils broke on the counter attack. Chirkin then went down the left before cutting inside and unleashed a shot from just outside the box which Skonto keeper Kaspars Ikstens was unable to hold onto and the Yellow and Blues had a two nil lead. Skonto did pull a goal back late on when Armands Pētersons shot low into the bottom right corner to halve the deficit but FK Ventspils managed to hold out for a much-needed victory. With defending champions Liepājas Metalurgs also winning their game at home to FC Tranzits by two goals to nil it was imperative for FK Ventspils to win in order to stay in touch with the title chasers. After yesterday’s games Skonto still lead the table with 25 points from 10 games, FK Ventspils have 22 points from 9 games and Metalurgs are a further point behind having also played nine games. Watch FK Ventspils v Skonto Riga highlights HERE:

In Lithuania there is a new leader, for at least twenty hours anyway, as defending title holders FK Ekranas won 5-0 at home against FK Mažeikia with Ramūnas Radavičius and Vīts Rimkus each scoring a brace and Egidijus Varnas scoring the other one to put FK Ekranas level on points with FK Žalgiris Vilnius. The capital side play later today against third-placed FK Sūduva in a match which could have important consequences for the title race. FK Sūduva, fresh from qualifying for the Triobet Baltic League final earlier in the week, will go to within a point of the top two if they can beat second-placed Žalgiris so it’s an important match for all concerned.

The Estonian Meistriliiga is shaping up into a fascinating three horse race with traditional powers Flora Tallinn and Levadia Tallinn fighting it out with surprise challenger FC Trans Narva. FC Flora, who lost out to FK Ventspils in the Triobet Baltic League semi-finals this week, beat FC Lootus 4-0 away from home and were grateful to learn that FC Levadia, champions for the last four seasons, had dropped two points at home to JK Nõmme Kalju in a goalless stalemate. FC Trans’ 3-0 home win against FC Kuresaare took them to the forty point mark, the same number as the Tallinn “Old Firm”, but FC Trans have played 19 league matches so far compared to FC Flora’s 16 and FC Levadia’s 17.

Finland’s Veikkausliiga could prove to be a tight contest this season as there are ten teams separated by just seven points although some teams have yet to play their ninth game whilst some teams already have done so. Friday night saw JJK Jyväskylä beat FF Jaro by three goals to one with striker Tommi Kari getting on the scoresheet twice whilst on Saturday AC Oulu kept up their title challenge with a 3-0 win away at FC Lahti thanks to a brace from Mika Nurmela and a lone strike from Jean Ngambe Ngambe. Defending champions HJK Helsinki are amongst the six teams playing on Sunday, facing off against MyPa in their Matchday 9 tie, whilst second-placed Honka Espoo face KuPS Kuopio and FC Haka plays against bottom club IFK Mariehamn. Two further games on Monday, FC Tampere v TPS Turku and Inter Turku and VPS Vaasa, complete the round.

The 14th round of games will take place on Monday in the Belarussian Vysshaya Liga with BATE Borisov in their usual first place position in the table. They have a five point lead as they go into their match with fifth-placed FC Minsk whilst second-placed Dinamo Minsk will fancy their chances of keeping up with BATE with a win at home to third bottom side FC Neman Grodno. Poor old Partizan Minsk have still to win a game in the championship, having only scored two points from thirteen games, and will seek that maiden victory away at eighth-placed Lokomotiv Vitebsk.

Triobet Baltic League: Semi-Final Quartet Decided (+video)

Posted in European Football by peterbein on May 5, 2010
Sergey Shumilin

Sergey Shumilin was crucial to FK Ventspils' progression to the semi-finals

The quarter-final second legs of the Triobet Baltic League, the cross-border competition in the Baltic States, have been completed today and it’s going to be an interesting final four. There’s still the possibility of an all-Latvian final as that country’s two remaining clubs have been kept apart in the draw. Hoping to stop them will be the one sole Lithuanian representative and the first team from Estonia to make it through to this stage of the competition. “Stoppage Time – International Football Blog” reviews the latest developments in the tournament.

Last season’s losing finalists Skonto Riga have endured a pretty tough week in cup competitions after their compatriots FHK Liepājas Metalurgs completed a 2-0 aggregate win over their arch-rivals from the Latvian capital. Skonto, who were surprisingly eliminated from the Latvian Cup last week by newly-promoted FK Jelgava, went down to a 58th minute Oskars Kļava goal in the 1-0 first leg defeat on the Baltic coastal town of Liepāja. However Skonto were playing with many of the team that had started off the domestic league season with a 100% record after four games so were confident of overturning the deficit. Sadly, for Riga’s finest, the luck just wasn’t with them. First they had an Andrejs Perepletkins goal disallowed in the 16th minute as the ball had gone out of play before the cross was turned home and then, just eight minutes later, Metalurgs took the lead after Lithuanian striker Vitalijus Kavaliauskas struck from close range after a penalty box scramble. Metalurgs would hold out comfortably for the win and now the club are hoping to win their second Triobet Baltic League title after clinching the inaugural competition in 2007. You can watch video highlights of Skonto FC – Liepājas Metalurgs here:

With two teams in the last eight of the competition Estonian hopes of progressing in the tournament rested on the Tallinn duo of FC Levadia and FC Flora. The former, who have won the last four Estonian league titles, held out against Lithuanian side FK Sūduva to a goalless draw in the first leg on away ground so were quietly optimistic of achieving a result in the home leg played on Tuesday. Alas it was Povilas Lukšys who would kill off Levadia’s dream by scoring a crucial away goal in the 36th minute of the match and the Lithuanians progressed through by a slender one goal aggregate margin.

FC Flora had to fight all the way in their quarter-final against Lithuanian champions FK Ekranas Panevėžys with goals hard to come by throughout the contest. After the first leg in Tallinn remained goalless there seemed to be a strong possibility of the same outcome affecting the second leg. The breakthrough came after 52 minutes when veteran Latvian striker Vīts Rimkus gave FK Ekranas the lead. Flora came back in fine fashion just ten minutes later when substitute Alo Dupikov restored parity for the visitors and this was followed by Finnish midfielder Valeri Minkenen securing the victory via the penalty spot with just thirteen minutes remaining to turn the match on its head. The home side, now down to ten men through the red card shown to goalkeeper Vytautas Černiauskas for the penalty decision, didn’t have enough time to come back and FC Flora created history for Estonian football by becoming the country’s first semi-finalist in Triobet Baltic League history.

In the final match of the round FK Ventspils went through to the semi-finals with a 3-1 aggregate win over FK Vėtra Vilnius thanks mainly to the striking prowess of young Russian striker Sergei Shumilin who netted twice in the tie. Shumilin, who joined the club in April from PFC CSKA Moscow, scored the winner in the 2-1 first leg in the Lithuanian capital before sealing the deal with the only goal of the second leg at home.

TRIOBET BALTIC LEAGUE SEMI-FINAL DRAW

FK Sūduva v Liepājas Metalurgs

(1st Leg May 26; 2nd Leg June 8th)

FK Ventspils v FC Flora Tallinn

(1st Leg May 25; 2nd Leg June 9th)

Triobet Baltic League resumes after winter break

Posted in European Football by peterbein on April 4, 2010
FBK Kaunas

FBK Kaunas won the 2008 Triobet Baltic League beating Skonto Riga 2-1 in the final. Who will win the 2009-10 competition?

The Triobet Baltic League (TBL), a cross-border competition for teams from the Baltic States (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia), resumes this week at the quarter-final stage of the competition. In comparison to the previous two editions that took place there is a more even spread of teams at this stage, geographically speaking, with Latvia and Lithuania having three teams left in the competition whilst Estonia, who had no teams involved in the last eight of the previous two tournaments, has two teams remaining in the competition. “Stoppage Time – International Football Blog” charts you through the short history of this tournament and will preview the quarter-final fixtures.

The original idea for this tournament came in 2006 after the only edition of the Baltic Champions’ Cup was played involving the champions from the individual Baltic domestic leagues in 2005. Lithuanian team FK Ekranas won the tournament on goal difference from Latvian champions Liepājas Metalurgs with Estonians TVMK Tallinn losing both their games. At this time the Scandinavian Royal League was also active with teams from Denmark, Sweden and Norway taking part and provided further inspiration for what was to become the Baltic League in its inaugural competition in 2007. Ironically the Baltic League has continued to thrive, especially under the sponsorship of betting firm Triobet (hence the tournament name), whilst the Royal League has been inactive since 2006-07 due to financial problems, scheduling issues and a lack of interest from supporters.

Perhaps the perceived lack of strength in depth in each of the individual football leagues in the Baltic region has whet the fans’ appetite for a Baltic league. Another factor could be the continuing success of basketball’s equivalent Baltic League (BBL) showing their footballing counterparts how a tournament of this nature can work. In the first edition of this competition Latvian clubs dominated with the inaugural TBL final being an all-Latvian affair between arch-rivals Liepājas Metalurgs and FK Ventspils with the former winning the two-legged final 8-2 on aggregate. In 2008 a record 7,000 crowd saw Lithuanian side FBK Kaunas win the second edition of the competition defeating Latvian record champions Skonto Riga 2-1 in a showpiece one game final played at Skonto Stadium.

The format has changed for the third edition of this tournament with the UEFA Champions League style group stages gone and replaced by a straight knock-out system involving the top sixteen teams in the region. Each nation is given five automatic places into the competition and then the country of the previous tournament’s winning club gets a sixth participant (hence Lithuania began this tournament with six teams). FK Vėtra Vilnius were given a bye into the quarter-final stage due to the expulsion from the tournament of FC Dinaburg, the Daugavpils based club having been involved in allegations of match fixing. The 2008 TBL champions FBK Kaunas also had no place in the 2009-10 edition due to their enforced relegation to the Lithuanian third division meaning that their place was taken by 7th placed FK Šiauliai. The new format seems to appeal to fans and sponsors with each round being a two-legged affair up until the final which will be a one-off game, the host venue for which will be decided later in the tournament.

The first two quarter-final, 1st leg matches take place on Tuesday with teams from differing nations facing up to each other. Flora Tallinn, joint-record champions of Estonia, play at home against FK Ekranas with both teams in winning form in their domestic leagues. Flora are just two points behind Meistriliiga leaders Levadia Tallinn and have won four of their six league games so far. FK Ekranas have won both of their opening games in Lithuania’s A Lyga including Saturday’s 2-0 defeat of FK Mažeikiai. In the other Tuesday night game Lithuanians FK Vėtra Vilnius, who have two wins from three games in their domestic league, plays against Latvian team FK Ventspils whose experiences in the 2009-10 UEFA Europa League group stage will stand them in good stead. With the new Latvian league season not starting until this Saturday FK Ventspils are a little out of match practice so this may give the Lithuanians a slight advantage.

Wednesday sees the tie of the round between current Latvian champions Liepājas Metalurgs and record Latvian champions Skonto Riga take place with the former hosting the first leg. There has been a rivalry between these two teams since Metalurgs became the first team to stop Skonto’s record of fourteen consecutive national championships in 2005 and games between these two giants of the Latvian game seldom disappoint. The fourth quarter-final is between Estonian champions FC Levadia Tallinn and FK Sūduva from Lithuania both of whom are unbeaten so far in their domestic leagues. FC Levadia beat their local rivals Flora 2-1 in Saturday’s derby match whilst FK Sūduva’s 0-0 draw at home to Žalgiris Vilnius allowed them to share top spot with FK Vėtra and FK Taurus, all of whom have seven points from nine after three matches.

TRIOBET BALTIC LEAGUE QUARTER-FINALS (teams on left at home first)

FC Flora Tallinn (Estonia) v FK Ekranas (Lithuania)

FK Vetra Vilnius (Lithuania) v FK Ventspils (Latvia)

1st Leg 05/04/2010; 2nd Leg 05/05/2010

FHK Liepājas Metalurgs (Latvia) v Skonto Riga (Latvia)

FC Levadia Tallinn (Estonia) v FK Sūduva (Lithuania)

1st Leg 06/04/2010; 2nd Leg 04/05/2010

As an added bonus check out the goals from the 2008 Triobet Baltic League final here:

Eastern Europe’s best get ready for CIS Cup

Posted in European Football by peterbein on January 15, 2010
Sheriff Tiraspol

Moldovan champions FC Sheriff parade the cup in 2009. However they won't be there to defend the title this time.

The Commonwealth of Independent States Cup takes place in Moscow for the next ten days as the best teams from the former Soviet bloc and the Baltic States compete for this pre-season tournament. It is sad that, in recent years, most teams choose to enter a reserve side, especially the Russian and Ukrainian champion sides who, since 2006, had preferred to play in the Channel One Cup held in Israel. But the tournament is still good preparation for Eastern European teams to get the most out of their squads with a guaranteed three games for each team in the group stage. Here is a brief guide to all of the clubs that have entered the 2010 tournament:

GROUP A: Rubin Kazan (Russia)

Rubin were promoted to the Russian top flight only seven years ago and have created a back-to-back championship winning side that won their maiden title in 2008 during the club’s 50th anniversary. They won the 2009 Russian League by eight points from record champions Spartak Moscow who, with six victories, are the record holders of the CIS Cup too. Their maiden appearance in the CIS Cup in 2009 ended at the group stage.

Dnepr Mogilev (Belarus)

Dnepr finished in the third place in the Belarussian League in 2009 trailing champions BATE Borisov by a whopping 22 points and runner-up Dinamo Minsk by ten points. They have one national championship to their name when they won in the 1998 season which allowed them to participate in the 1999 CIS Cup in which they finished third in the group stage and fail to qualify for the knock out stage. Representing Belarus as neither BATE nor Dinamo Minsk chose to enter.

FC Dordoi-Dynamo Naryn (Kyrgyzstan)

FC Dordoi have dominated the league in Kyrgyzstan in the last six seasons winning every year since 2004. They won the national championship in 2009 only after having to play against FC Abdish-Ata in a play off match, which finished 3-2, after the two teams were equal on points after the championship group which followed the regular season. FC Dordoi have never progressed beyond the group stage in the CIS Cup.

Liepājas Metalurgs (Latvia)

Metalurgs finally clinched their second Latvian Virsliga title in 2009 after they got the draw they needed on the penultimate matchday against title rivals FK Ventspils (CIS Cup finalist in 2007). Their first championship triumph in 2005 was the first time that a team other than Skonto Riga (three times runners-up in the CIS Cup in 2001, 03 and 04) were crowned champions in post-independence Latvia. In their only CIS Cup appearance in 2006 Metalurgs reached the quarter-finals before they were knocked out by Russian champions CSKA Moscow.

GROUP B: FK Baku (Azerbaijan)

FK Baku won their second Azerbaijani championship title in 2008-09 after they beat local rivals Inter Baku by a solitary point. In their solo appearance in the CIS Cup in 2007 they were defeated at the quarter-final stage by CSKA Moscow who went through 3-2 on penalties following a goalless stalemate.

HJK Helsinki (Finland)

The champions of Finland’s Veikkausliiga are competing in the CIS Cup for the first time this year. They won their 22nd championship in 2009 by finishing three points ahead of nearest challengers Honka Espoo. This was their first championship win since 2003.

FC Aktobe (Kazakhstan)

Kazakh champions four times in the last five years, FC Aktobe won the 2009 title finishing five points ahead of second place Lokomotiv. In the 2009 CIS Cup, FC Aktobe reached the final where they faced off against Moldovan champions Sheriff Tiraspol. After a 1-1 draw in regular time the game went to penalties where FC Sheriff won 5-4 to claim the cup (pictured).

FC Vakhsh (Tajikstan)

Tajik champions for the third time in their history in 2009 having beaten FC Regar-TedAZ to the title by five points. Have never progressed beyond the group stage in two previous attempts in the CIS Cup.

GROUP C: Dynamo Kyiv (Ukraine)

Dynamo are an institution in Ukraine. They were the most successful side during the Soviet era with thirteen championships and equalled that number in the 2008-09 Ukrainian championship having beaten old foes Shakhtar Donetsk to the title by thirteen points. Dynamo have also been successful in the CIS Cup having won the competition on four occasions in 1996, 97, 98 and 2002.

HTTU Aşgabat (Turkmenistan)

Three times champions of Turkmenistan with triumphs in the 2005, 06 and 09 seasons. They beat FC Nebitçi in the 2009 championship by a mere two points to qualify for this year’s CIS Cup. HTTU have never qualified for the knockout stages in their previous CIS Cup attempts.

FC Levadia Tallinn (Estonia)

The dominant force in Estonian football having won the last four championships and seven in total. They eased to the 2009 Meistriliiga title by finishing a clear 19 points ahead of nearest challengers Trans Narva and JK Sillamäe Kalev. Despite their regular appearances in recent years FC Levadia have not progressed beyond the group stage.

Russia U-21 (Russia)

The Russian Under-21 side is invited “hors concours” to the tournament which means they are allowed to play three matches during the group stage but their results don’t count towards the final table and they’re not allowed to progress in to the knock out stages.

GROUP D: FC Bunyodkor (Uzbekistan)

A new force in Uzbek football having won the last two domestic championships. They won the 2009 edition under the stewardship of coach Luis Felipe Scolari as they easily saw off all competition finishing 22 points ahead of nearest challengers FC Pakhtakor Tashkent (who finished runner-up to FC Khazar Lenkoran in the 2008 CIS Cup final). FC Bunyodkor did not participate in the 2009 CIS Cup and have sent a reserve team to the 2010 edition opting to prepare their first team for the upcoming AFC Champions League.

FC Pyunik Yerevan (Armenia)

Twelve times winners of Armenia including the last nine championships, FC Pyunik are without doubt the dominant force of modern Armenian football. They won the 2009 title by seven points from FC Mika. The best performance of FC Pyunik in the CIS Cup was in 2006 where they were defeated by PFC Neftchi Baku in the semi-finals.

FK Ekranas (Lithuania)

Five times champions of Lithuania, FK Ekranas finished six points ahead of FK Vetra Vilnius in the 2009 A Lyga to qualify for this year’s CIS Cup. Their best performance in this tournament came in last year’s edition having reached the quarter-final stage only to be knocked-out on penalties by FC Pakhtakor.

FC Dacia Chişinău (Moldova)

Present CIS Cup champions FC Sheriff Tiraspol refused to enter this year’s tournament so Moldova will be represented by 2009 championship runners-up FC Dacia who finished 15 points behind FC Sheriff. This is FC Dacia’s first participation in the CIS Cup.