Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

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: