Liepaja emerges from Skonto shadow with Championship gold

  • 2005-10-05
  • By TBT staff
RIGA - After 47 years, Liepajas Metalurgs has finally taken home the Latvian Championship gold. The club team sealed their title on Oct. 2 with a 5:1 win over Ventspils. Skonto, who has dominated the national championships for 14 years, finished in second place.
Talk about Metalurgs winning began mid-way into the game, as the team showed a surprisingly strong attack. Miceika scored the first goal after 5 minutes and then Karlsons added gals in the 37th and 40th minute. By halftime, the team's fate was nearly sealed as the scoreboard glared a blaring 3:0.

"I am very moved, because the long road we climbed has finally ended with the crowning of gold medals," Lithuanian coach Benjamins Zelkevics told the Latvian daily Diena after the game.

Bursting with adrenaline from their win, the team menbers hoisted Zelkevics onto their shoulders, throwing him into the air. The last time Liepaja won the championship was in 1959 during the Soviet period, when they played under the name Sarkanais Metalurgs.

As Metalurgs captain Viktors Dobrecovs said, the team had become used to losing under Skonto's undefeatable reign. This time, he added, "we grew stronger, and started to walk."

The battle for second place was sealed when Jurmala lost to Skonto in Sloka on Oct. 2. But the battle for fourth place, which guarantees a spot in the Intertoto Cup, will continue. The most likely contenders are FK Jurmala, three points away from fourth place, and FK Riga.

The championship will have a two-week interruption for a friendly game against Japan on Oct. 8 in Riga and a World Cup qualifier match on Oct. 12 against Portugal.

Fans will be eager for the games to get back on track, as the Latvian league is more exciting than it has been for some time.