Latvia's comebackputs paid to Turkey

Turkey 2 Latvia 2 Latvia win 3-2 on agg

Maris Verpakovskis scored one goal and set up another as Latvia secured their first trip to the European Championship finals after coming back from 2-0 down to eliminate Turkey, who were semi-finalists in last year's World Cup finals.

Ilhan Mansiz and Hakan Sukur scored a goal each to give Turkey a 2-0 lead by the 64th minute, but Verpakovskis set up Jurijs Laizans two minutes later and scored one of his own in the 77th to advance to the Euro 2004 finals in Portugal.

The result came after Verpakovskis also scored the goal that gave the Latvians a 1-0 win over the Turks in Riga on Saturday.

"We've created a sensation in Europe. Turkey were favourites and I'm very happy that we won," said the Latvia coach, Aleksandrs Starkovs. "Our tactics were successful. We played counter-attacking football. The Turkish crowd were great. They applauded us... That doesn't happen everywhere."

La opened the scoring in the 20th minute, his exquisite long-range effort bringing the stadium to life. Latvia enjoyed their share of possession in the first half, but did not create any serious scoring opportunities.

The half ended with the Turks pressing for the second goal that would give them the aggregate lead, Nihat Kahveci going only just wide with a bicycle-kick in the 40th minute.

Turkey maintained pressure in the second half, and seemed to have taken a decisive step towards the finals when Hakan Sukur, who did not play in the first leg, scored with a deft finish from Gokdeniz Karadeniz's cross in the 64th minute.

Two minutes later, however, Laizans latched on to a free-kick to get Latvia back into the tie. One Latvian player celebrated the goal by grabbing a corner flag and miming gunning down his team-mates. The celebrations prompted the crowd to rain plastic bottles and coins on to the pitch - an incident that is sure to be investigated by Uefa, European football's ruling body.

Verpakovskis sealed the aggregate victory 11 minutes later, running into the penalty area and beating Catkic with a superb right-footed lob under pressure.

TURKEY: Catkic; Davala (Sas, 78), Korkmaz, Baris, Belozoglu, Metin (Karadeniz, 60), Kahveci, Kerimoglu (Sanli, 80), Sukur, Mansiz, Uzulmez

LATVIA: Kolinko; Stepanovs, Astafjevs, Zemlinskis, Laizans, Zirnis, Isakovs, Bleidelis, Verpakovskis, Rubins, Rimkus (Stolcers, 79).

Referee: A Frisk (Sweden).

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