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Season review: Latvia

Published: Tuesday 12 November 2013, 11.16CET
Skonto FC were Virslīga leaders for most of the season, but despite only one loss they were pipped by FK Ventspils, who clinched the title on the final day to complete their third double.
by Mikhail Korolev
from Riga
Season review: Latvia
Ventspils pipped Skonto to the title by five points ©Anatolij Popeluha
Published: Tuesday 12 November 2013, 11.16CET

Season review: Latvia

Skonto FC were Virslīga leaders for most of the season, but despite only one loss they were pipped by FK Ventspils, who clinched the title on the final day to complete their third double.

Skonto FC were Virslīga leaders for most of the season but the capital side were pipped by FK Ventspils who clinched the title on the final day to complete their third Latvian double.

Champions: FK Ventspils
When Ventspils lost 3-0 at Skonto in late April, the idea that they would beat the Riga club to the championship seemed unlikely. But Ventspils promptly embarked on a 22-match undefeated sequence and although they were held 0-0 at home by Skonto in July, they barely dropped any other points and took over the lead with three games to go – confirming the title with a 1-0 success at FK Daugava Rīga.

Cup final: FK Ventspils 2-1 SK Liepājas Metalurgs
Jurģis Pučinskas's side secured the first part of the double in May against their Kurzeme rivals. Against the run of play, Antons Jemeļins put Metalurgs ahead before the break, but Vadim Yanchuk levelled with 18 minutes left and Kaspars Dubra won it in added time.

European places
FK Ventspils – UEFA Champions League second qualifying round
Skonto FC – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
FC Daugava Daugavpils – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
2014 Latvian Cup winners – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round

*subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the year: Kaspars Dubra (FK Ventspils)
The official award has not yet been made, but in a year where no individual clearly stood out, Dubra proved a consistent presence in the Ventspils defence. A leader of the line and a threat at set pieces, the 22-year-old already has more than 100 top-flight appearances to his name and struck the dramatic cup final winner.

One to watch: Artūrs Karašausks (Skonto FC)
Many expected Valērijs Šabala to make his breakthrough, and indeed he scored 15 times and burst onto the international scene, but he was outshone by club-mate Karašausks. The Skonto forward, 21, was the First Division's joint-leading marksman on 16 goals and, returning to the top after a spell at lowly FB Gulbene, certainly impressed with his creative spark and finesse.

Surprise package: FK Jelgava
Jelgava were relegation favourites after a disastrous start and the inexperienced Sergeijs Golubevs did not appear the man to pull them out of trouble, yet the young coach succeeded despite all the difficulties. Jelgava gained a new look under Golubevs and finished the campaign eight matches unbeaten and with a last-day triumph over hitherto undefeated Skonto.

Number: 1
Skonto suffered just one league loss all year – against Jelgava on the final day.

Leading scorers: Artūrs Karašausks (Skonto FC), Andrejs Kovaļovs (FC Daugava Daugavpils) – 16

Relegated: Ilūkstes NSS

Promoted: BFC Daugava Daugavpils

Quote: "In one game at the start of the season we were losing 3-1 at home to Daugava, but managed to win 4-3. Our game was still raw and the team were just beginning to gel, but it was then I thought that these lads have what it takes to win the league."
Ventspils coach Jurģis Pučinskas

Last updated: 18/11/13 12.41CET

http://www.uefa.com/memberassociations/association=lva/news/newsid=2022644.html#season+review+latvia

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