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Ventspils vanquished by Raffael winner

FK Ventspils 0-1 Hertha BSC Berlin
Raffael scored the winning goal, but was also sent off as the German side eliminated their hosts from Group D contention.

Cícero and Raffael were an integral part of Hertha's success
Cícero and Raffael were an integral part of Hertha's success ©Getty Images

Raffael's early strike proved sufficient for Hertha BSC Berlin to claim a 1-0 victory in Riga against FK Ventspils, remain second in Group D and eliminate the Latvian outfit.

Point required
The first-half dominance of Friedhelm Funkel's men was rewarded 12 minutes in with an accomplished finish by Raffael, who was also sent off late in the contest. SC Heerenveen's draw at Sporting Clube de Portugal denied the German side a passage through to the last 32, although they require only a point from their final match against the Portuguese team to join them in the next stage.

Midfield partnership
The hosts spurned an early gift when Christoph Janker dallied on the edge of his own area and was dispossessed by João Martins, but the Portuguese striker could only curl his effort straight at Jaroslav Drobný. The profligacy proved costly as Raffael burst through the left channel on to Cícero's header – the pair had been pulling the strings since the opening exchanges – and the Brazilian rolled in a near-post finish. Hertha nearly strengthened their hand as Cícero struck the post after Aleksandrs Kolinko failed to deal with Raffael's free-kick.

Home response
Edgars Gauračs, scorer in the 1-1 reverse fixture on Matchday 1, entered the fray at half-time as Nunzio Zavettieri injected further options up front but it was the industrious Martins who made the next significant inroad, heading into the path of substitute Aleksejs Višņakovs only for the boot of Drobný to repel his drive. Gauračs went closer still moments later, heading against the bar with the goal gaping after Drobný parried Višņakovs's strike. Hertha regrouped and rarely appeared likely to relinquish their narrow lead, even after Raffael received his second yellow card for dissent with three minutes remaining.