FC Skonto 0-0 PFC Levski Sofia
PFC Levski Sofia will be happier than FC Skonto after neither side could break the deadlock in the first leg of this UEFA CHampions League second qualifying round tie.
Despite home advantage in a stifling Riga stadium, Skonto were content to play a counter-attacking game in the hope of avoiding conceding the away goal that would have given the Bulgarian champions the upper hand in next week's return.
The hosts began the brighter of the two sides with Mihails Miholaps firing a dangerous shot wide on eight minutes. Maris Verpakovskis tested Dimitar Ivankov with a header five minutes later, but further Skonto activity was well absorbed by the Levski defence.
The visitors themselves started pouring forward later in the half, as Gueorgui Chilikov's header hit the post after a cross from Dimitar Telkiyski on 28 minutes. Sasa Simonovic forced a fantastic save from Andrejs Pavlovs as Levski enjoyed even more of the upper hand in the middle of the first 45.
However, Skonto's tactics almost paid off when Vladimirs Kolesnicenko first-time shot produced an incredible save from Ivankov in the Levski goal. Levski stepped up a gear in the second half, and Pavlovs had to summon up all his skills yet again after efforts from Simonovic and Chilikov. With six minutes to go, Levski nearly claimed a prized away goal. Pavlovs cleared the ball but it landed at the feet of Miodrag Pantelic, but his shot went wide.
Neither coach was particularly thrilled with the final score. Skonto coach Aleksandrs Starkovs said: "It was an even game, but we wanted to win it. I am hoping for a better result in Sofia - our counter-attacking tactics should be more fruitful there."
His Levski counterpart Slavoljub Muslin suggested the heat, which was around 33 degrees, prevented his club from a better performance in the first leg. "It was a good game, but it is impossible to play football in such heat," he said. "We played poorly in the beginning, but we managed to regroup and dominate the rest of the game. It is going to be a tough fixture in Sofia, but we still hope to qualify."
The winners of the tie will meet either FC Dynamo Kyiv or FC Pyunik in the third qualifying round with Dynamo the more likely opponent after their 4-0 victory tonight.