First Team Star
Jun 12, 2019, 5:41 PM
Team(s): Colchester United, Stocksbridge Park Steels, Borussia Dortmund & Essex CC
Post #1 of 2
Lithuania & Latvia Euro 2020 Qualifiers Break
Lithuania & Latvia Euro 2020 Qualifiers Break
A delayed late Wednesday afternoon Ryanair flight to Vilnius and a #1 bus (€1) got me to my hotel (Old Town Trio) between the train and bus stations and the Old Town early enough to for me to find a bar for a nightcap or two. With a couple of full days in the city there was plenty of time to explore the attractive Unesco World Heritage listed Old Town with it’s sights and an excellent choice of reasonably priced bars and restaurants. Having not purchased a match ticket online I was advised by my hotel receptionist to head to the Prekybos centras CUP shopping centre just across the Neris River from the Old Town. There the helpful lady on the Information desk on the ground floor duly sold me a top priced ticket (€20) in a section on the same side of the LFF Stadion as the VIPs and media. Friday evening a short twenty minute walk took me to the stadium.
Friday, 7th June 21:45
LFF Stadionas, Vilnius
UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier Group B
Lithuania 1(0) Luxembourg 1(1)
Admission €20 Programme €2 Team Sheet Free
I arrived early on the lookout for programmes and bumped into Chelsea Spud of this parish and his three pals. One of them, Roland went in search of paper and made enquiries at the gazebo where the VIPs were collecting their comps and the media their accreditation passes. Shortly afterwards an official arrived with a box of programmes but was reluctant to part with any, claiming that they were for the VIPs and media. He soon handed over the goods however when he realised we were prepared to pay for them. There were no signs of any more on sale so one box may have been the only ones available.
On entering the ground a small caged 3G pitch to our left was hosting a number of activities for kids and the on other side of the caged pitch there appeared to be the only refreshment outlet serving beer. I’m not sure if any food was on offer but I didn’t see anyone eating. With a capacity of 5,067 the stadium has a 3G pitch which was renewed in 2015. There are uncovered seated stands on three sides, the small main stand with VIP catering and media facilities, the much larger ‘popular’ stand opposite and the home end to the right housing the bouncing ultras. The end to the left just has the caged pitch and a decent sized scoreboard.
With the temperature 23°c at kick-off it was perfect conditions for football. The game proved to be excellent entertainment with chances at both ends. The hosts had some good early chances but these were squandered and the visitors attack looked the more dangerous. They took the lead in the 20th minute when the impressive Gerson Rodrigues received the ball in the box, created space and fired in. The Hungarian referee, Adam Farkas was doing his best to upstage the players booking five before the break. The unfortunate Lithuanian, Saulius Mikoliunas received two yellow cards in the 5th and 42nd minutes to depart early before the break. Despite being a man down the hosts were much improved after the break and they levelled the score in the 74th minute when Arvydas Novikovas ran onto a lay-off in the box to blast the ball past Luxembourg’s keeper Anthony Moris. Both sides had further chances to take all three points but a draw was probably about right. For the record the referees tenth and last booking of the night was a second for Modestas Vorobjovas with Lithuania finishing with just nine men.
The next day I caught the 10:00 Eurolines bus from the Vilnius Bus Station to Riga (€15.30) arriving shortly after 14:00. Catching a local trolleybus (€2) a couple of kilometres out of the centre I found my accommodation the Augustine Hotel, ideally located just 15 minutes walk from the Daugavas Stadion.
As in Vilnius I had two full days before the international and again there was plenty to see and do. Once more my hotel reception helped out with purchasing a match ticket, this time buying one online and printing it off at the hotel.
Monday 10th June 21:45
UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier Group G
Daugavas Stadions, Riga
Latvia 0(0) Slovenia 5(4)
Admission €20 Programmes Free
Beer & Fried Bread Chips(!) €6
Entrance into the Fan Zone outside the ground opened two hours before the kick-off. There were beer and food outlets, souvenir stands, a DJ doing his stuff and later a rapper (or should I say a racket!) performing on a stage. Any sign of programmes? Nope! I tried asking the men in suits who shrugged and shook their heads advising they were only available for VIPs and media. Plan B ask those nice media men. Result programmes secured.
The Daugava Stadium was built in 1927 and it’s renovation was started in 2017. The first phase of the renovation, adding new stands behind each goal, was completed in May last year. That increased the capacity to 10,461. The second phase scheduled to be completed by 2022 will add a roof to the main west stand and add a new ice rink to replace the previous one demolished in 2018. A new scoreboard sits on the halfway line on the unused east side of the ground.
About half an hour before the kick-off we had a thankfully brief shower. I say that as all three stands are open to the elements and it could have been a soggy evening. The temperature was a cool 21°c the coolest evening of my week away.
Going into this game both teams were on terrible runs of results. Slovenia had not won any of their last nine games and had only won one of their previous fourteen. Latvia had an even worse record having not won any of their last eleven games and had only managed one win in seventeen!
After a slow start the visitors scored three goals in five minutes to take control. In the 24th minute Domen Crnigoj was picked out unmarked in the box by Robert Beric down the right and fired in. Two minutes later Crnigoj was again left alone in the box and this time he was picked out by Petar Stojanovic with the same outcome. In the 29th minute Scottish referee Kevin Clancy awarded the visitors a penalty and up stepped Josip Ilcic to make it three-nil. A minute before the break the ball broke to Ilcic in the crowded box and the midfielder fired in. In the 47th minute Stojanovic again broke down the right, squared the ball into the box and this time Miha Zajc side-footed in. The rest of the half was mostly forgettable with Latvia never looking likely to score.
All in all an excellent trip with both Vilnius and Riga recommended as cities worth a visit. The glorious weather was a real bonus particularly with the weather so miserable back home. The football was not bad. The first game was competitive and entertaining, the second one-sided and mostly forgettable. Roll on September for the next round of internationals.
(This post was edited by sheffgeoff on Jun 12, 2019, 5:43 PM)
Chelsea Transfer Target
Jun 13, 2019, 8:53 PM
Team(s): England, Leicester City, Bedfont & Feltham
Post #2 of 2
Went to the same two games as Sheffgeoff, as part of an enjoyable trip around the two countries. Hired a car from Vilnius and so drove to Riga via a lovely stay on the coast at Palanga. Then after leaving Riga we spent a day and a night at Trakai, which is a great place to stay (especially once the hordes of coach parties have left).
Thanks to Roland for getting me a programme at the Lithuania game. I paid a bargain 7eu for my ticket for the Latvia game, but that did mean I couldn't access the media area so I'm relying on eBay for a programme for that one.
Enjoyable trip, and the usual stuff is on my blog https://stevebthegroundhopper.blogspot.com/