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Season review: Latvia

Published: Tuesday 10 November 2009, 16.03CET
SK Liepājas Metalurgs relieved FK Ventspils of the Latvian title for the first time in four years, but the success of Nunzio Zavettieri's side in Europe may have been the biggest story in the nation this year.
by Mihail Korolev
from Riga
Season review: Latvia
Kristaps Grebis' 30 goals helped Metalurgs to claim the title ©Anatolij Popeluha
Published: Tuesday 10 November 2009, 16.03CET

Season review: Latvia

SK Liepājas Metalurgs relieved FK Ventspils of the Latvian title for the first time in four years, but the success of Nunzio Zavettieri's side in Europe may have been the biggest story in the nation this year.

SK Liepājas Metalurgs relieved FK Ventspils of the Latvian title for the first time in four years, but the success of Nunzio Zavettieri's side in Europe kept them in the headlines. The nation's most successful club, Skonto FC, finished third, prompting the departure of English coach Paul Ashworth.

Champions: SK Liepājas Metalurgs
German coach Rüdiger Abramczik won the second title in Metalurgs' history in his first full season. The Liepaja side came through with a game to spare, his side eventually finishing five points ahead of Ventspils. The former West Germany striker said: "We really gave it our all for the whole season. During the campaign we lost some leaders, but young, inexperienced players managed to replace them." The challenge for Metalurgs now may be to keep their coach, who could be interested in returning to his home country.

Cup final: none
The Latvian Cup has been rescheduled from a spring-autumn competition to an autumn-spring one, with the next final scheduled for 2010.

Player of the Year: Kristaps Grebis (SK Liepājas Metalurgs)
The Metalurgs striker scored 30 league goals in what was indisputably the best season of his career, with one strike earning a crucial 1-1 draw against Ventspils. The 28-year-old also became more of a presence in the national team, scoring two international goals, including a FIFA World Cup qualifying winner at home against Moldova.

One to watch: Edgars Gauračs (FK Ventspils)
Gauračs started the season in Italy, where he was under contract at Ascoli Calcio 1898, but shone after returning home to join Ventspils. The 21-year-old was a key performer as Ventspils earned an important 1-1 UEFA Europa League group-stage draw at Hertha BSC Berlin and also emerged as a leading figure in the Latvian Under-21 team, scoring a hat-trick in 3-1 win in the Faroe Islands and three more in a 5-1 home demolition of Romania.

Surprise package: FK Jūrmala
Vladimir Babichev's side were lucky to scrape together enough funds to start the campaign, but despite having no pre-season and a shortage of seasoned players, Jūrmala held on in mid-table, eventually finishing fourth. Jūrmala will play in next season's UEFA Europa League provided one of the top four teams wins the Latvian Cup.

Leading scorer: Kristaps Grebis, SK Liepājas Metalurgs (30)


Number: 12 ... and counting
Ventspils set a new standard for Latvian football by reaching the UEFA Europa League group stage. Their 12 games in one European season is a national record they could yet improve on if they can progress in Group D.

Quote
"We are very disappointed to lose the title but I'm sure other Latvian clubs would be happy to be in our place, playing in the UEFA Europa League group stage. We are proud to take part in UEFA club competition until the end of the year and to bring clubs like Sporting, Heerenveen and Hertha to Latvia."
FK Ventspils head coach Nunzio Zavettieri

Last updated: 13/11/09 12.34CET

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