Kaunas clinches Lithuanian Cup

  • 2004-11-01
  • By Thomas Hviid
VILNIUS - After an unusual penalty shootout scenario, in which no less than seven out of 10 penalties were missed, Kaunas won the Lithuanian Cup by beating Atlantas Klaipeda 2-1 on Oct. 27. Kaunas' goalkeeper Eduardas Kurskis was the hero of the day, saving three penalties in the shootout. Klaipeda's keeper Liudvikas Valius also saved three attempts from the spot, but was helpless against the well-placed penalties from Ricardas Beniusis and Eimantas Poderis. Andrius Bartkus was the only Atlantas player who actually managed to score from 11 meters out.

The match was played on neutral ground in Siauliai, where a heavy rainfall in the hours before and during the match made playing conditions virtually impossible. The penalty shootout was almost the only logical way to end to what was an intense but muddy and messy encounter.

Both teams had good chances to score in ordinary time and extra time, and Klaipeda felt aggrieved not to have won the game in normal time. In the dying minutes of the game, Atlantas striker Tadas Labukas was obviously brought down in the penalty area by a Kaunas defender, but the referee chose to let play continue.

After the match, Atlantas coach Vaclovas Lekevicius could not disguise his disgust with the referee's decision. "I do not intend to stop fighting against the monsters of Lithuanian soccer," he said, strongly questioning the neutrality of the man in black.

But Kaunas' coach Valdas Ivanauskas predictably took a different view of events and claimed that his team had played a very good match despite the bad weather conditions. He was also happy that the win could finally kill off the rumors that Kaunas was prepared to hand the victory to Atlantas Klaipeda. "Concerning such an agreement there were no such ideas. Fully ambitious football players always want to win such a game," Ivanauskas said.

The cup victory was Ivanauskas' first title as Kaunas' coach but it will be a big disappointment for him and his team if they fail to win the Lithuanian Premier League this season. A little more than a month ago, Kaunas was the firm favorite to win the league for the sixth year in a row. But after an impressive six game winning streak, including a 1-0 win against Kaunas, Ekranas is suddenly leading the league on goal difference with only two games remaining.

It promises to be a thrilling end to the season as the two teams will face each other in the final game of the season on Nov. 7, with Ekranas having the home advantage.

In other news from the league, the mood at the high-profile club Zalgiris Vilnius is reaching an all-time low. The club is likely to miss out on European football for the first time in 12 years if it fails to overtake city rivals Vetra, but its problems are not only on the pitch. The controversial club president, Janusas Loputis, was recently found guilty of financial irregularities concerning transfer payments dating back to 1996 and 1999. Loputis, who took over the club in 1995 to save it from administration, was fined 37,000 litas (11,000 euros).