Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Europe: Latvia wins 11th Baltic Cup title

Posted in European Football, International Football by peterbein on June 4, 2012
Latvia Baltic Cup 2012

Latvia celebrate winning the 2012 Baltic Cup tournament

The 2012 Baltic Cup has taken place over the course of the weekend and the tournament, held in Estonia, proved to be an interesting affair. The Baltic Cup saw Finland enter the competition for the very first time to join the usual line-up of the Baltic States nations, namely Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. The tournament, usually played in a mini-league format, changed into a straight knockout format and with that came three days, four games and eleven goals worth of action.

Lithuania came into this year’s Baltic Cup as the defending champions having won the previous tournament on home soil in 2010. They were paired with Latvia in the first of this year’s semi-finals with both nations hoping to become the first country to win the competition for the eleventh time. A win for either team would see that dream come one step closer to reality but the manner by which Latvia would go on to defeat their old rivals was surprising. Aleksandrs Cauņa scored the opening goal in the twelfth minute from the penalty spot and with further strikes in the first half from Edgars Gauračs and Aleksejs Višņakovs the game was as good as over at half-time. To compound the misery for Lithuania, a second goal for Gauračs in the 48th minute was followed by a late strike for Vitālijs Smirnovs as Latvia thrashed the champions by five goals to nil to ease their way into this year’s final.

The second semi-final was a much closer affair. Estonia, whose most recent tournament win came as far back as 1938, were hoping to at least reach the final but they came up against new boys Finland who were desperate to make a mark in their first Baltic Cup. A crowd of 2,400 in Tartu, Estonia’s second largest city, saw the visitors take an early two goal lead with Njazi Kuqi, lesser known brother of former Newcastle United player Shefki, bagging a brace as early as the 22nd minute. The hosts did manage to pull one back on the half hour mark through Andres Oper but, try as they might, they were unable to restore parity and the Finns were through to their first Baltic Cup final courtesy of a 2-1 victory.

Yesterday saw Estonia gain some consolation by winning the third/fourth place play-off against Lithuania. Vladimir Voskoboinikov scored the only goal of the game after 18 minutes to give the home fans something to shout about. In the final a more competitive affair saw Latvia and Finland fight out a 1-1 draw. The game was goalless at the break but the deadlock was broken on 52 minutes with Finland’s Toni Kolehmainen giving the tournament new boys the lead. Just two minutes later Latvia had equalized through the competition’s top scorer Edgars Gauračs and with no further scoring for the rest of the game the destiny of the Baltic Cup would be decided on penalties.

Both teams missed their first kicks of the shoot-out, Teemu Pukki missing for Finland whilst Aleksandrs Cauņa did likewise for Latvia. Both teams then went on to convert their next four penalties in the shoot-out, thus creating a sudden death situation. Six further spot kicks were needed but when Kolehmainen missed his kick for Finland the pressure then fell upon Latvia’s Vladislavs Kozlovs to win the game. This he did and, having won the shoout-out 6-5, Latvia could celebrate a record eleventh Baltic Cup triumph.

Europe: Flora and Ekranas still unbeaten; FKV lose again (+video)

Posted in European Football by peterbein on June 27, 2011

Baltic flagsThe various football leagues in the Baltic States are approaching the halfway stages of the 2011 campaign. Defending champions Flora Tallinn and FK Ekranas still remain unbeaten at the top of the Estonian Meistriliiga and Lithuanian A Lyga respectively whilst Latvia’s Virsliga saw leaders FK Ventspils lose for a second time in less than a week.

Eight times Estonian champions Flora Tallinn are threatening to run away with the Meistriliiga as they currently hold a seven point advantage over joint second place club JK Nõmme Kalju having played one game less. The defending title holders don’t quite have the league’s best attack although they have scored just two goals fewer than Kalju and local rivals Levadia Tallinn (32 each) but what the league leaders possess is the league’s tightest defence having only shipped in five goals so far, averaging at one goal conceded every five games. The league leaders have gone through something of a mini-break ahead of oncoming UEFA Competition as they haven’t played a competitive league game since June 14th when they defeated Sillamäe Kalev 1-0. However they face off against 2nd place Nõmme Kalju this Sunday in a game which could see Flora go virtually out of sight at the top of the table.

FK Ekranas, champions for the last three years in Lithuania, currently lead the A Lyga by four points and are, like their Estonian counterparts Flora, still unbeaten after fifteen games. Unlike the Estonian championship, however, Lithuania’s top flight doesn’t quite feel like a one-horse race just yet as FK Sūduva and FK Žalgiris Vilnius are hanging on their coat tails. All of the top three teams won away from home by the same 1-0 score line this weekend; FK Ekranas had Auremis Vertelis to thank for the three points as his 37th minute goal defeated FK Klaipeda whilst Sūduva and Žalgiris also scraped home by a solitary strike against FK Kruoja Pakrujo and FK Banga Gargždai respectively. FK Ekranas currently have 39 points with Sūduva and Žalgiris just four and six points further behind each having played the same number of matches.

Things have become more interesting in Latvia’s LMT Virsliga in the last week. FK Ventspils, who were unbeaten in their first twelve matches of the current campaign with a record of 11 wins and 1 draw, have now suffered back-to-back defeats. Their first loss came away at FK Jelgava on June 22nd with Vladislavs Kozlovs bagging a brace in his side’s 2-0 victory over the league leaders. Ventspils were then made to suffer at home to Liepājas Metalurgs yesterday afternoon in a repeat of the 2010-11 Latvian Cup final which FKV won last month; Lithuanian midfielder Nerijus Valskis, who is currently on loan from FBK Kaunas, scored the only goal in the first sixty seconds of the match to gain a spot of revenge for Metalurgs and whose title challenge has been resurrected in the process. FK Ventspils currently top the table with 34 points from 14 games, three points ahead of Metalurgs who have played a game more. Surprise package Daugava Daugavpils came within sixty seconds of a victory away at defending champions Skonto Riga yesterday but for Deniss Kačanovs’ equalizer in stoppage time which granted Skonto a 1-1 draw. Daugava lie third in the table with the same record as Metalurgs whilst Skonto have just 26 points from 14 games played.

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

Baltic States: Old order restored in Baltic League (+video)

Posted in European Football by peterbein on November 11, 2010

The 2010-11 Triobet Baltic League (TBL) has now concluded its first knockout round and for the Estonian clubs it has ultimately proven not to be as joyous as one would have first thought after the first leg. All five clubs from Estonia won their first leg ties and gave hope that some new forces would emerge in the competition. However clubs from Latvia and Lithuania restored the old order and made sure that they both got some decent representation in the quarter-finals.

The old guard of Estonian football, FC Flora and FC Levadia, are the only representatives remaining from the most northern of the Baltic States following the first round action. FC Flora, who have just celebrated becoming Estonian Meistriliiga champions for the first time since 2003, wrapped up a good year by going through on away goals in a tough encounter against last season’s losing TBL finalists FK Sūduva. The Lithuanians won this week’s second leg at home by 3-2 but this wasn’t enough as they were defeated 2-1 in the first leg in Tallinn and so it was Flora who went through courtesy of two away goals to one. FC Levadia, who saw their four year reign as Estonian champions end this week, at least ended the season on a high after a 5-3 home win against Latvians SK Blāzma Rēzekne secured a 6-3 aggregate victory.

The three other Estonian teams all endured disappointment following encouraging first leg matches. None more so than Trans Narva who, following a 5-1 home victory against Lithuanians FK Šiauliai, crumbled in the away leg to a 5-0 reverse and, therefore, suffered a 6-5 aggregate defeat. Sillamäe Kalev, 2-1 winners in their first leg match to Latvian Cup finalists FK Jūrmala-VV, conceded goals at the start and the end of the second leg to go down 2-0 in the match, 3-2 on aggregate. Last season’s Triobet Baltic League champions FK Ventspils were given a fright by Estonians JK Nõmme Kalju who led 2-1 from the first leg and who made the Latvians sweat it out for their 4-1 second leg victory. Nonetheless the champions passed the first test of their title defence and will hope to become the first team to defend the trophy.

In the three games not involving Estonian clubs newly crowned Latvian champions Skonto Riga had to scrap to a 3-2 aggregate victory over Lithuanian side FK Tauras with all of the goals coming in the first leg. FK Ekranas Panevėžys, who were crowned Lithuanian champions for the third year in a row in 2010, strolled to a 4-0 aggregate win over JFK Olimps/RFS of Latvia whilst the final game of the round came today with Liepājas Metalurgs getting the better of FK Banga by four goals to two on aggregate.

The Triobet Baltic League takes a break until April when the last eight do battle for the coveted title. The pick of the games will be the battle of the champions of Latvia and Lithuania, namely Skonto Riga and FK Ekranas respectively, whilst another standout tie involves Estonian champions FC Flora against defending TBL champions FK Ventspils. Levadia Tallinn take on FK Šiauliai whilst, in an all-Latvian tie, Liepājas Metalurgs take on FK Jūrmala-VV to complete the line-up.

WATCH FK SIAULIAI v TRANS NARVA 2nd LEG HIGHLIGHTS HERE:

Baltic League: Draw for 2010-11 tournament held in Riga

Posted in European Football by peterbein on August 20, 2010
FK Ventspils

FK Ventspils celebrate their 2009-10 Triobet Baltic League triumph. Who will win the competition in 2010-11?

The draw for the 2010-11 Triobet Baltic League, the cross-border competition for the top sixteen teams in the Baltic States, was held today in the Olympic Centre in the Latvian capital of Riga. The composition of the draw was five teams each from Lithuania and Estonia whilst Latvia has six teams as one of their representatives, FK Ventspils, won last season’s tournament and thus get the extra berth as a reward. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog reveals the draw for the first round, the first leg takes place from September 21-22 and the second leg from October 26-27:

Banga (LT) v L. Metalurgs (LV)

FC Jurmala-VV (LV) v JK Sillamäe Kalev (EST)

JFK Olimps/RFS (LV) v Ekranas (LT)

Tauras (LT) v Skonto FC (LV)

JK Nõmme Kalju (EST) v FK Ventspils (LV)

FC Flora Tallinn (EST) v FK Suduva (LT)

SK Blazma Rezekne (LV) v FC Levadia Tallinn (EST)

JK Narva Trans (EST) v Šiauliai (LT)

Europe: Levadia and Flora draw Tallinn Derby; Baltic Leagues Round-Up

Posted in European Football by peterbein on July 25, 2010
Sander Post

Sander Post scored a last minute equalizer for FC Flora against arch rivals Levadia Tallinn

The Estonian Meistriliiga saw a heavyweight contest at the top of the table with old foes Levadia and FC Flora fighting it out in the Tallinn Derby. The gap between the two clubs was six points before the match with FC Flora, in second place, having played three games fewer than their opponents who have won the league in each of the last four seasons. The game started well with an early goal for Levadia’s Konstantin Nahk who put the home side ahead after six minutes and the game would stay like that until midway through the second half when Flora’s Henri Anier restored parity and bring the hosts level. Tarmo Neemelo looked to have won the game for Levadia after his goal thirteen minutes from time regained the lead for the champions but Flora saved their title dreams when Sander Post equalised in stoppage time to give the visitors a share of the points. Third place Trans Narva FC’s 2-0 win over Tulevik Vijandi FC took them level on points with Flora but they have also played three games more than the capital side so Flora may fancy their chances of catching up to Levadia in the table.

In neighbouring Latvia there were wins for the big three this weekend as Liepājas Metalurgs, FK Ventspils and Skonto Riga all predictably won their games to keep things as you were in the Virsliga. Champions Metalurgs won 4-0 at home to FK Jauniba Riga with Croatian defender Jurica Puljiz scoring a brace whilst arch rivals FK Ventspils remained on top of the table after a 2-0 victory against FK Tranzits in the derby of Ventspils. Skonto Riga went behind to an early Lasa Gongadze strike in the twelfth minute before Alexandr Starkovs’ men came back to rout local rivals Olimps/RFS by six goals to one with Brazilian Nathan Junior keeping up his goal form scoring a brace. FK Ventspils have 34 points from 13 matches but Skonto have a game in hand and are only three points behind. Liepājas Metalurgs have 27 points from 13 games and have some way to go if they are to defend their championship title.

FK Ekranas still continue to lead the way in Lithuania’s A-Lyga but they had Dominykas Galkevicius to thank for maintaining their five point lead at the top of the standings after they beat FK Atletas Kaunas by a solitary goal to nil. Žalgiris Vilnius are hanging on their coat tails after dispatching of FK Mažeikiai by six goals to nil thanks mainly to the contribution of Artūras Jeršovas who scored four times. FK Ekranas have 41 points from 16 games with Žalgiris on 36 having played a game more whilst in third place lie FK Sūduva Marijampole who could only draw 0-0 away at FK Šiauliai at the weekend and have 33 points from 16 matches.

Baltic Cup 2010: Lithuania champions again (+video)

Posted in European Football, International Football by peterbein on June 20, 2010
Lithuania flag

Lithuania are the 2010 Baltic Cup champions

The 2010 Baltic Cup competition came to a close on Sunday with Lithuania crowned the champions of the region for the eighth time in thirteen post-Independence championships having secured a 2-0 win over Estonia. In the opening match of the tournament, which was played on Friday, Lithuania and Latvia shared the points after a goalless draw which neither side would’ve been truly happy with. Latvia, the defending champions going into the tournament, were to rue their profligacy in front of goal after they also drew 0-0 with Estonia twenty-four hours later and knew that they had effectively blown their chance to successfully keep hold of the trophy. A win of any kind would allow Estonia or Lithuania to take the silverware as they played the final match of the tournament in Kaunas. Mantas Savėnas gave Lithuania the lead after 31 minutes having converted a penalty kick conceded by goalkeeper Mihkel Aksalu and it wasn’t until second-half stoppage time that Lithuania secured the trophy when Artūras Rimkevičius made it 2-0 to allow the home crowd to start celebrating a precious win. Lithuania gained four points from two games with Latvia two points further back and Estonia propping up the others having only scored one point.

The weekend also saw an Under-21 competition in Marijampolė where the host nation would again be victorious. They beat Latvia’s U-21 team by two goals to one on the opening day thanks to strikes from Povilas Krasnovskis and Marius Papšys with the visitors pulling one back in stoppage time through Daniils Turkovs. After Latvia U-21 defeated Estonia U-21 on day two of the tournament by a goal to nil it meant that the hosts needed only a draw against Estonia U-21 to win the trophy. Eivinas Zagurskas gave Lthuania U-21 the lead just before the hour mark but Estonia U-21 made life difficult for Lithuania in the closing stages of the match when Juri Jevdokimov equalized in the 72nd minute. The game finished with no further scoring and allowed Lithuania to win the Under-21 tournament with a one point advantage over Latvia and secure a very proud double for the host nation.

Watch Lithuania v Estonia Highlights HERE:

Eastern Europe: Baltic Cup 2010 Preview

Posted in European Football, International Football by peterbein on June 16, 2010
Baltic Cup Logo

The Baltic Cup tournament takes place in Lithuania from June 18-20

The FIFA World Cup is not the only international tournament going on in the world of football at the moment. The Baltic Cup football tournament takes place in Lithuania from June 18-20 with three matches in as many days deciding which of the Baltic States will triumph over their rivals. Latvia, defending champions after winning the most recent competition in 2008, will help kick off the tournament by participating in the opening game against hosts Lithuania. Latvia will then face off against Estonia in the second game twenty four hours later and the tournament will conclude with the host nation meeting tournament outsiders Estonia on June 20th. Stoppage Time – International Football Blog previews the tournament with a short history of the event and a look at the current teams ahead of the big kick off.

The first ever Baltic Cup tournament took place in 1928 in Estonia and it was Latvia’s Arkādijs Pavlovs who secured his place in the competition’s history books by scoring the first ever Baltic Cup goal after just two minutes in a 3-0 win over Lithuania. Latvia won the first ever Baltic Cup after beating Estonia in the tournament decider by a goal to nil. Estonia won their maiden Baltic Cup the following year gaining revenge on Latvia by pipping the tournament hosts to the title on goal difference by one. The third tournament in 1930 saw Lithuania win their first tournament and it was again decided on goal difference with Lithuania’s final match 3-3 draw being enough to give them the trophy. The tournament was won fairly evenly up until 1938 with Latvia winning the event five times (1928, 1932, 1933, 1936 & 1937) compared to Estonia’s three (1929, 1931 & 1938) and Lithuania’s two (1930 & 1935). After Estonia’s 1938 triumph the Baltic Cup would fail to be played between independent states for another 53 years after many years of Soviet occupation. During the Soviet era a tournament did continue to take place in most years but it was re-instated as a tournament between nation states after each of the Baltic countries secured their independence between 1990-91.

Post-Independence Baltic Cup football has been a two horse race with Latvia and Lithuania sharing the titles between them. The year 1991 saw host nation Lithuania win their third title on goal difference from Latvia. The tournament would continue to be run as an annual event until 1998 and, during this time, Lithuania were the regional power chalking up six title wins in eight tournaments with Latvia victorious in two tournaments (1993 & 1995). Since the beginning of the 21st Century the Baltic Cup has been held every 2-3 years depending on each nation’s various commitments in the international footballing calendar. In the last decade the tournament was held four times with Latvia returning to prominence as the regional footballing power winning three titles out of four (2001, 2003 & 2008) with Lithuania winning their ninth ever title in 2005 with the event being reduced to a one-off game due to Estonia’s inability to find a place for the team in their schedule. Lithuanian Igoris Morinas scored both goals in the 2-0 win over Latvia to gift them the 2005 title but the defeated finalists got their own back in the most recent tournament in 2008. After both Lithuania and Latvia had secured victories against Estonia the two teams met in the tournament decider in Riga and it was host nation Latvia who won a record tenth title with Kaspars Gorkšs and an own goal from Vidas Alunderis giving Latvia a 2-0 lead before Ričardas Beniušis pulled one back for Lithuania with nine minutes to go. Watch the goals from the 2008 Latvia v Lithuania match HERE:

For this year’s tournament Latvia and Lithuania have created squads with a balance between youth and experience whilst the Estonian squad mainly consists of players who have plenty of caps. Only five out of twenty players in the Estonian set-up have fewer than twenty caps compared to eleven players for Latvia and seventeen out of twenty-four from Lithuania. Perhaps the players to look out for in the tournament will be Latvia’s striker Kristaps Grebis, who was the Latvian league’s top scorer last season with 30 goals, Lithuania’s Darvydas Šernas who has just completed his first season in Polish football scoring twelve goals in 34 league games, and Estonia’s Kaimar Saag, a promising 21 year old who scored his first international goal in December 2009 and has recently won his twentieth cap.

BALTIC CUP 2010 FIXTURES

18.06.2010 Lithuania v Latvia (in Kaunas)

19.06.2010 Latvia v Estonia (in Kaunas)

20.06.2010 Lithuania v Estonia (in Marijampolė)

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)