Renārs Rode's added-time equaliser salvaged a 2-2 draw for Latvia against a Slovakia side who led by two goals at half-time.
No matter the outcome in Riga, neither team could earn a top-two finish in FIFA World Cup qualifying Group G and perhaps the freedom helped create an entertaining encounter. Ján Kozak's men got off to a perfect start, finding themselves two up inside 16 minutes. Latvia showed character to battle back, however, and restored pride with their two-goal second-half display.
Latvia never got out of the blocks. Martin Jakubko headed in a perfect corner after nine minutes and Kornel Saláta soon doubled the Slovak advantage in a similar fashion. Coach Marians Pahars was thanking his lucky stars at half-time that his charges were only 2-0 down, as Michal Ďuriš and Erik Jendrišek had also gone close.
Whatever Pahars said to his players during the intermission worked like a charm. The 19-year-old prospect Valērijs Šabala pulled one back two minutes into the second half, the strike injecting passion into the hosts.
However, Matúš Kozáčik's goal remained untested until Pahars' decision to introduce substitute Māris Verpakovskis, who had reached a century of appearances last month. The forward's entry put Slovakia on the back foot and they conceded a final, fatal corner. Skonto FC defender Rode took advantage, turning in to earn a share of the spoils.