Latvia coach Aleksandrs Starkovs has marked the season of his return to the Skonto FC helm by leading the side to their 15th league title.
Skonto were six points clear of FK Ventspils with two rounds of matches to play, meaning a point at home to their closest challengers on Sunday would be enough to secure the championship. Equalisers in either half from Kaspars Dubra and Igors Tarasovs ensured a 2-2 draw and the club's first Latvian championship crown since 2004 – when Starkovs was last coach before moving on to FC Spartak Moskva.
"Obviously I'm happy to win the title once again," said the 55-year-old. "We worked hard throughout the whole year to reach our main goal and at last we can say we are champions. I believe our success is well-deserved. We had strong opponents: Ventspils, SK Liepājas Metalurgs and FC Daugava. Each of them could have won the race, but we were better and luckier."
Given that his side have lost just two of their 26 league matches and boast a goal difference of +64, the impact of Starkovs' return cannot be understated. "It's impossible to overstress the role of our coach," said captain Vitālijs Smirnovs. "It's hard to describe; you need to feel it. One thing is clear: Starkovs is a man who always aims for victory. You just can't play badly under his guidance."