Nigeria’s Ahmed Abdultaofik has handed the 2011 Latvian Cup to Ventspils, scoring two goals in his side’s 3-1 victory over Liepaja’s Metalurgs in the final on Sunday, May 14. Their dominance of Latvia’s oldest cup in the 21st century continued this year with Sunday’s victory signaling the fifth time they have lifted the trophy since 2003, to go along with the runners-up award in 2008. The Latvian Cup has been played for since 1937 and has always taken place as a straight knockout tournament, with all Latvian clubs given the opportunity to play in the tournament. Entering the tournament at the round of 16 stage Ventspils saw off Spartaks (2-1), Daugava Riga (2-1) and Daugava Daugavpils (2-0) to set up their date with Liepaja in the final. Olegs Laizins put Ventspils in front in the 35th minute before Abdultaofik scored his first goal in the 44th minute. Liepaja remained in touch, however, with Captain Toms Tamosausks bringing the deficit back to one goal in the 62nd minute. But Abdultaofik cancelled the goal out with his second of the match eight minutes later, sealing the victory for Ventspils.
Latvia has been embarrassed by Sweden in their latest rugby outing, losing the 2a European Nations Cup fixture 54-29. Had it not been for a late rally the final score may well have signaled Latvia’s biggest loss ever in a test match. In the first half Latvia lacked any real direction, with simple skills absent in their performance. After tying the score at 3-3, they would not score again in the first 40 minutes, to be trailing 32-3 at the break. Sweden continued to run rampant in the second half as Latvia floundered their way around the field as the lead went out to 51-3. In the last 20 minutes and with Sweden playing a man down, Latvia finally began to play with some purpose, claiming four late tries to give the score line a somewhat more respectable look. Latvia’s coach, Vladimirs Nikonovs, was quick to blame team fitness after the match. His outlook for the remainder of the summer was somewhat pessimistic, citing an inability to bring back players playing abroad for international fixtures as a major obstacle to Latvia’s chances.
The world of cycling was thrown into yet another controversy last week when the UCI – the sport’s governing body – leaked a document that ranked all riders in the 2010 edition of the Tour de France for their likelihood of being drug cheats. On the so-called “suspicion index,” every rider was given a grade between 0 and 10, with a grade of 10 seemingly given to those most suspicious. The criteria behind the ranking system has yet to be revealed, but it would appear that Rein Taaramae of Estonia and Ignatas Konovalovas of Lithuania have little to worry about, receiving rankings of 0 and 4, respectively. In other cycling news, young Lithuanian rider Egidijus Juodvalkis had his breakthrough professional victory on the three-stage Tour de Picardie over the weekend. Juodvalkis won the opening stage in an uphill sprint finish by five seconds. He would drop back over the following two stages to finally complete the tour in fifth position.