FC Zürich took a giant stride to qualifying for the UEFA Champions League group stage as they won 3-0 at FK Ventspils.
Johan Vonlanthen set Zürich on their way in the 12th minute with further goals coming from Silvan Aegerter and Dušan Djurić after the break. The result leaves Ventspils with a monumental task on their hands if they want to become the first Latvian side to dine at Europe's top table.
Playing at the Skonto Stadium in Riga, Ventspils' new Italian coach Nunzio Zavettieri stamped his mark on the side by changing the club's usual 3-5-2 formation to a 4-4-2 set-up. It was the Swiss champions, though, who started on the front foot, Vonlanthen heading Philippe Koch's cross wide when well placed in the seventh minute. The visitors did not have to wait too much longer to open the scoring as Vonlanthen beat two defenders and curled into corner from the edge of the area. The goal did nothing to curb Zürich's attacking bent, but it was the hosts who threatened next, Aleksejs Višņakovs somehow missing from five metres out.
Ventspils were beginning to create chances and six minutes before the break Višņakovs's intelligent pass just eluded a sliding Vits Rimkus at the back post. The second half started as the first ended – the Latvian side pushing for an equaliser against the massed ranks of the Zürich defence. However, Bernard Challandes' charges were proving a dangerous proposition on the counterattack and extended their lead when Aegerter headed in a 55th-minute corner.
Zavettieri sent on striker Andrejs Butriks to try and turn the match around, but with 15 minutes remaining Djurić made it three from the edge of the area after home goalkeeper Andrejs Pavlovs spilled the ball at his feet. Zürich substitute Adrian Nikci almost added to Ventspils' misery when he hit the post in added time, a minor disappointment for the Swiss side, who are very well placed to progress in next Tuesday's home decider.