By Mihail Korolev
FK Ventspils defeated Linfield FC tonight, but it was not enough to secure progress for the Latvian team as their 1-0 first-leg loss meant the Northern Irish side reached the UEFA Cup second qualifying round on away goals.
The finely-balanced tie changed decisively after just eight minutes of the second leg. Linfield's Michael Gault launched a long throw into the opposition penalty area which surprised the Ventspils defenders and goalkeeper Pavels Davidovs, and Peter Thompson was allowed to steal in and score from point-blank range.
The hosts, now needing three goals to qualify, took time to settle after such a severe early setback. Their first chance came after 34 minutes as Aleksandr Rekhviashvili's shot was blocked as he threatened to reduce the two-goal deficit.
Ventspils mounted a recovery and things began to look up as half-time approached. Jirí Krohmer's cross found Rekhviashvili who headed into the net on 39 minutes to level the score on the night. After the break Latvian international Vits Rimkus came on as a second striker, but opportunities continued to be rare for the home side. On 77 minutes Ventspils coach Romans Grigorèuks sent on yet another striker and the chances then began to appear.
Giorgi Modebadze's close-range shot was saved by Alan Mannus, as was Andrejs Butrik's effort from ten metres. In the first minute of added time Modebadze set up Rimkus to make the score 2-1, but it was too little too late for the Latvian team, and Linfield are in Friday's draw.