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Verpakovskis keeps Latvia in contention

Wednesday, 30 March 2005

[1] Maris Verpakovskis's brilliant individual performance helped Latvia to a comfortable 4-0 win against Luxembourg to keep his country in the hunt for a place in next year's FIFA World Cup finals.

Gain ground

[2] With the top three teams in Group 3 all drawing on Wednesday, Latvia took full advantage of their meeting with bottom side Luxembourg to gain some ground on the frontrunners.

Bleidelis opener

[3] After Imants Bleidelis had given Latvia the lead, Verpakovskis won a penalty to allow Juris Laizans to score the second from the spot. The FC Dynamo Kyiv forward then added two strikes late in the second half at the Skonto stadium in Riga as Latvia narrowed the gap on joint leaders Portugal and Slovakia to four points.

Laizans penalty

[4] Latvia needed victory to maintain a realistic chance of catching the frontrunners and the goals started to arrive just past the half-hour mark. Bleidelis opened the scoring after 33 minutes when he clipped in Andrejs Rubins' cross, and Laizans added the second from the penalty spot five minutes later after the irrepressible Verpakovskis had been brought down in the area.

Verpakovskis double

[5] That gave Latvia a comfortable half-time lead and the only surprise was that it took so long for the home side to add to their tally after the restart. It was not until the 73rd minute that Verpakovskis scored his first and Latvia's third of the night, and as the game entered stoppage time he scored another after a clever cross from Viktors Morozs.

Russia next

[6] Latvia next play on 4 June against Russia, who were held to a 1-1 draw by Estonia on Wednesday, and will climb above their neighbours into third place should they win. Luxembourg, still in search of their first point, are next in action four days later at home to Slovakia, who drew 1-1 with Portugal in Wednesday's other Group 3 game.

Latvia goalscorer Maris Verpakovskis wriggles past the Luxembourg defence