By Peter Bruun
Latvian side FK Ventspils made full use of an early away goal to eliminate Michael Laudrup's Brøndby IF in Denmark and reach the UEFA Cup first round.
Brøndby had only returned to training yesterday morning after the suspension of a Danish players' strike, and were caught out within five minutes as Andrei Agafonov headed in after a free-kick for the first goal of the tie. The home side were soon into their stride, forcing a succession of corners, and Andreas Jakobsson and Per Nielsen proved particular dangers.
Martin Retov was then set free on 15 minutes only for Denis Romanovs to pull off a superb save. In the 33rd minute, though, Brøndby had their goal when Nielsen was fouled in the Ventspils area and Dan Johansen converted the resultant penalty. The score remained the same at half-time, leaving Brøndby 45 minutes to score again.
However, Ventspils emerged from the dressing room a determined team and kept the home side well shackled. Johan Elmander did go close with a header and a shot and Johan Absalonsen also had a good effort, while Andreas Jacobsen's free-kick went close, but even as substitute Daniel Agger threatened it seemed time was running out.
In added time, Absalonsen finally put the ball in the net, but as the home fans celebrated the goal was disallowed, after referee Paolo Bertini spotted a foul by Agger. As the tension increased Brøndby's Thomas Kahlenberg and the visitors' Viktors Lukasevics were both dismissed, but although Agger had another chance, he was denied by Romanovs and Ventspils were able to celebrate their place in tomorrow's draw.