FHK Liepajas Metalurgs' bid to end Skonto FC's world-record 14-year monopoly of the Latvian title remains on course.
A 1-1 draw at Skonto on 25 June proved Metalurgs' ambitions to be well-founded. The leaders, who did not drop a point until their sole defeat by FK Ventspils in late May, went ahead through Aleksandr Katasonov and even after Andriy Pereplyotkin equalised and Darius Miceika was sent off for the visitors, they maintained their discipline.
Last weekend Metalurgs, pipped by Skonto in 2004, beat FK Jurmala 3-1 to reach the halfway stage with a six-point advantage over the champions. Skonto had slipped up a week before playing Metalurgs, when they drew 2-2 against Ventspils and needed a late equaliser to avoid defeat.
Skonto also narrowly avoided disaster in the Latvian Cup, ousting FK Riga 2-1 in the quarter-finals thanks to Clode Ngon Adjam's extra-time goal. That was relief for under-fire coach Jurijs Andrejevs, as Skonto have reached the last ten finals. They now look to their eleventh UEFA Champions League campaign, which begins in F.Y.R. Macedonia against FK Rabotnicki on Tuesday.
Ventspils, who lifted the last two Latvian Cups, had a nervous last-16 tie earlier in June, needing penalties to overcome lower-division FK Dižvanagi. They then won 2-0 at FK Jurmala to join Skonto, Metalurgs and FK Olimps Riga in the last four but an earlier 1-1 draw with FC Dinaburg cost coach Sergejs Semjonovs his job. After Igors Stepanovs's caretaker spell, which included the Jurmala win, former Dinaburg coach Romans Grigorčuks took over.
On Thursday, Ventspils go to Northern Ireland to play Linfield FC in the UEFA Cup first qualifying round, while Metalurgs visit Faroese team NSÍ Runavík the same day. Dinaburg have been flying the flag in the UEFA Intertoto Cup, and having knocked out Welsh side Bangor City FC 4-1 on aggregate, trail Lithuania's FK Žalgiris Vilnius 2-0. If Dinaburg prevail at home on Saturday, they will play Egaleo FC of Greece.
Jurmala themselves may be out of the cup yet they achieved some fine results during June, defeating Olimps and Riga to move from bottom to fifth in the table. FK Venta, who boast the experienced Valentins Lobanovs, Oleg Luzhny and Yuri Benyo, are level with their cup conquerors Olimps at the foot.
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