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Thursday, February 19, 2004 

Latvia 3-1 Kazakhstan

Latvia had to come from behind to defeat Kazakhstan 3-1 in Larnaca as the Baltic nation took another step on their incredible journey to UEFA EURO 2004™.

Coach Aleksandrs Starkovs' starting lineup for this Cyprus international tournament tie showed just one change from the eleven that took the field for the momentous second-leg play-off against Turkey last November, with Marians Pahars replacing Vits Rimkus up front alongside Maris Verpakovskis.

Latvia started brightly with Jurijs Laizans sending a free-kick just wide early on. However, despite dominating possession, the Latvians found it hard to create chances for their new front pair.

After 24 minutes the Kazakhs then took a surprise lead. A cross into the Latvian box caught Aleksandrs Isakovs off guard, and midfield player Youri Aksenov beat Aleksandrs Kolinko from point-blank range. Imants Bleidelis almost equalised soon after, but Yuriy Novikov in the Kazakh goal made a brilliant save, tipping the ball over for a corner.

As the interval approached, Andrejs Rubins and Pahars created a good chance for captain Vitalis Astafjevs only for the captain to shoot wide from 16 metres. However, the move sparked a Latvian onslaught which saw them score twice in the final five minutes of the half.

First, Pahars latched on to a pass in the corner of the Kazakhstan penalty box and sent a brilliant left-footed shot curling over Novikov to make it 1-1. Laizans then gathered a pass 27 metres from goal and took one touch before sending a thundering drive into the net.

Latvia applied even more pressure after the break, with Bleidelis wasting a tremendous chance to increase the lead when one-on-one with Novikov. Rubins and Verpakovskis also failed to hit the target when well placed, but Laizans finally succeeded in finding his second goal, and his side's third, in the 66th minute when his free-kick found the net.

Source: Uefa.com


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