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Lithuania lifted by home support

The pain of a last-gasp opening defeat still lingers, but Lukas Artimavičius and Tomas Švedkauskas say the fans could yet make the difference against Spain and Portugal.

Lukas Artimavičius celebrates scoring against the Netherlands
Lukas Artimavičius celebrates scoring against the Netherlands ©Saulius Čirba

Lithuania's Lukas Artimavičius and Tomas Švedkauskas are hoping home support can lift the UEFA European Under-19 Championship hosts for the tough tests ahead.

The host nation produced a rousing matchday one display at the Darius & Girenas Stadium – backed by 7,436 fans – as they recovered from conceding two goals in the first 30 minutes against the Netherlands. After captain Artimavičius had halved the half-time deficit, Gratas Sirgėdas seemed to have earned a point when he made it 2-2 seven minutes from time, yet Lithuanian dreams were dashed by Rai Vloet's added-time winner – although the memory of that vociferous support lingered.

"It's hard to describe the atmosphere," said FK Atlantas centre-back Artimavičius, who headed the first goal from a corner. "I want to thank all the supporters for coming. I've never experienced anything like that in my life – scoring such a goal and making so many fans happy. Thanks to them."

Goalkeeper Švedkauskas also expressed his gratitude to those who attended Saturday's match in Kaunas, and is aiming for similar backing against Spain and Portugal in the next two Group A games. "The atmosphere was brilliant," he enthused. "I hope the fans will also attend the next game in those numbers, because it's an entirely different feeling playing in front of such a crowd."

Although the majority of the supporters will have gone home disappointed by the 95th-minute Dutch winner, both Švedkauskas and Artimavičius are convinced there are plenty of positives to take from the performance. "We kept the Netherlands nervous until the end," the defender said. "Unfortunately we could not keep our concentration and we conceded in the last minute. That is very disappointing.

"We were a bit nervous at the start, since we'd never played a match at such a level, and we initially failed to play as we wanted to," Artimavičius added. "In the second half we showed what we are capable of. The Dutch had to put in a lot of effort but tiredness and lack of concentration probably cost us in the end. I actually said, 'This is the most important corner of the game,' [before Vloet's winner] but it happened like that anyway."

On Tuesday Antanas Vingilys's team face a Spain side buoyed by a derby win against Portugal, and Švedkauskas – whose late save from Bilal Basacikoglu seemed to have secured a draw on Saturday – wants more of the same from his team-mates, perhaps aided by some help from another source. "Our counterattacking style worked; we scored from a corner, then in the second half we also had some chances on the break," the AS Roma custodian said.

"Our game plan was defensive and not to concede an early goal. Instead the Netherlands had the initiative, so this plan didn't work at the start. We kept to our game and scored two goals. Everything looked to be going as planned, but something was lacking – maybe some help from God. Now we have to rest, analyse the Spanish team and see what we can do."

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