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Season review: Latvia

Published: Thursday 22 November 2012, 9.00CET
It was a season to remember for FC Daugava Daugavpils coach Ivan Tabanov, who steered his team to their maiden top-flight title, while Skonto FC lifted the Latvian Cup.
by Mikhail Korolev
from Riga
Season review: Latvia
Daugava captain Mihails Ziziļevs (right) drew wide acclaim for his performances ©Roman Koksharov
Published: Thursday 22 November 2012, 9.00CET

Season review: Latvia

It was a season to remember for FC Daugava Daugavpils coach Ivan Tabanov, who steered his team to their maiden top-flight title, while Skonto FC lifted the Latvian Cup.

FC Daugava Daugavpils caused a stir by claiming the First Division title for the first time in their 11-year history while runners-up Skonto FC prevailed on penalties in the Latvian Cup final. 

Champions: FC Daugava Daugavpils
The usual suspects were tipped to challenge for the championship ahead of the 2011/12 campaign, and while Daugava slipped under the radar, it would be their name engraved on the league crown as the final standings took shape. That feat was a distant dream when they were humbled 6-1 by FC Jurmala on matchweek four. However, the appointment of Moldovan tactician Ivan Tabanov inspired an upturn in fortunes as Daugava completed the season unbeaten at home.

Cup final: SK Liepājas Metalurgs 1-1 Skonto FC (aet, Skonto win 4-3 on penalties)
Roman Amirkhanov held his nerve to fire ten-man Skonto to victory, scoring the decisive penalty in the shoot-out. The game finished 1-1 after extra time, then Metalurgs' Ritus Krjauklis missed the target from the spot and Andrejs Prohorenkovs' attempt was saved by Skonto's Germans Māliņš – allowing Russian defender Amirkhanov to end the capital club's ten-year wait to lift the trophy. Skonto coach Marians Pahars praised his charges after clinching the cup. "I have to thank the players for this victory," said the former Latvian international. "It was a very hard match, but the boys fought courageously."

European places*
FC Daugava Daugavpils – UEFA Champions League second qualifying round
Skonto FC – UEFA Europa League second qualifying round
FK Ventspils – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round

*Subject to final confirmation by UEFA

Player of the year: Mihails Ziziļevs (FC Daugava Daugavpils)
The 38-year-old midfielder belied his age with a string of combative performances. Standing toe-to-toe with the exuberance of youth, Ziziļevs never shirked a tackle and used his superior know-how to come out on top in the midfield battle. Having helped to forge his team-mates into a cohesive force, he capped a formidable season by scoring the goal that earned Daugava the title.

One to watch: Vladimrs Kamešs (SK Liepājas Metalurgs)
Skonto's teenage striker Valērijs Šabala showed wisdom beyond his years by scoring 11 goals in a sparkling campaign, yet it was Kamešs who shone brightest. Kamešs's innate ability elicited a call-up to the Latvia national team and he registered his first goal in 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying against Liechtenstein in October. "His progress is startling and I hope he will continue in the same manner," Latvia coach Aleksandrs Starkovs said of the 24-year-old.

Surprise package: FK Spartaks Jūrmala
Arminas Narbekovas's side were formed as recently as 2007 but did not look out of place on their top-flight debut, sticking valiantly to their stylish footballing philosophy to secure a fifth-placed finish, 24 points clear of the drop zone. FS Metta/Latvijas Universitāte also deserve plaudits after a squad composed entirely of homegrown players contrived to stave off any relegation fears, claiming some prized scalps along the way – including a memorable double over Liepājas Metalurgs.

Leading scorer: Mamuka Gongadze, FC Daugava Daugavpils (18)

Relegated: FB Gulbene 2005

Promoted: Ilukstes NSS

Number: 64
The number of goals Daugava scored to land their first title – one more than Ventspils, who finished third despite boasting the best goal difference in the table: +41. 

Quote
"I will turn 39 in December. Winning the championship is the pinnacle of my career but I am not in any hurry to retire."
Daugava captain Mihails Ziziļevs

Last updated: 22/11/12 18.33CET

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