Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

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.

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.