By Kestutis Gimbutas
FK Ekranas have established an eight-point lead over champions FBK Kaunas after 12 rounds of matches in Lithuania.
Having lost just three games last season - all against Ekranas - Kaunas have suffered three defeats already in 2005, while the league leaders have gone from strength to strength. Ekranas are scoring with a brand of attacking football which is taking the A Lyga by storm.
The Panevezys side are constructed around the skills of central midfielders Aurimas Kucys and Mantas Savenas. "Before the start of the season we rebuilt our team play," explained coach Virginijus Liubšys. "It seems to me that we play much faster football as a result."
While Ekranas are soaring, second-placed Kaunas's spirits are sinking. Defeats by FK Vilnius, FK Vetra and Ekranas prompted Valdas Ivanauskas's departure as coach, but his replacement - Russian Aleksandr Piskariov - is not enjoying much success.
After goalless draws against KFK Siauliai and Vilnius in their last two matches, the new man is already under fire while, tellingly, national team coach Algimantas Liubinskas did not include any Kaunas players among the nine A Lyga stars selected for Lithuania's game against Spain.
A change of management may not have led to a change of fortunes at Kaunas, but Marijampole's FK Suduva have flourished since Italian coach Rino Lavezzini and assistant Guglielmo Ferrari made way for Algimantas Gabrys to return to the club's helm after an 18-month break.
Deployed on the wing under Lavezzini, Tomas Radzinevicius has returned to his favoured attacking role under Gabrys and the team have been thriving. In their latest outing they were 2-0 ahead at home to Ekranas only to concede twice in the closing minutes to end up drawing.
Suduva are now seventh, level on points with eighth-placed Vilnius, but both are within six points of third-placed FK Atlantas. Lithuania's most popular club, FK Žalgiris Vilnius, are currently in sixth, but promoted FK Nevézis are not having much luck, with just one point from eleven games. They have conceded 38 goals and are rooted to the bottom.
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