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Season review: Albania

Published: Thursday 24 May 2012, 10.25CET
KS Skënderbeu won the sweetest of derbies against KS Pogradeci to clinch back-to-back titles for the first time at the expense of KS Teuta, who had to settle for second place.
by Fatjon Pandovski
Season review: Albania
Skënderbeu won back-to-back titles for the first time ©LSA
Published: Thursday 24 May 2012, 10.25CET

Season review: Albania

KS Skënderbeu won the sweetest of derbies against KS Pogradeci to clinch back-to-back titles for the first time at the expense of KS Teuta, who had to settle for second place.

After 78 years without a league title KF Skënderbeu made it two in as many seasons after pipping KS Teuta by a single point with a final-day derby victory against KS Pogradeci.

Champions: KS Skënderbeu
Albania's oldest club claimed their first title in 78 years last season but won their last two games to ensure there was the shortest possible gap between championships on this occasion. Trailing KS Teuta by a point with three games remaining, Skënderbeu were reliant on help from other teams and they duly obliged. Taking a one-point advantage into the final game, two goals from Daniel Xhafa and a penalty from captain Blendi Shkembi ensured the defending champions held off the challenge of Teuta, who kept up the pressure all the way with a 2-1 victory at KS Kastrioti.

Cup final: KF Tirana 1-0 KS Skënderbeu (aet)
KF Tirana won a record-equalling 15th Albanian Cup with a 1-0 defeat denying league champions KS Skënderbeu a domestic double. The game was settled at the start of the second period of extra-time, when Bekim Bala converted Klodian Duro's free-kick with a powerful header.

European Places
KS Skënderbeu - UEFA Champions League second qualifying round
KF Tirana - UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
KS Teuta - UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
KS Flamurtari - UEFA Europa League first qualifying round

Player of the Year: Bekim Bala (KF Tirana)
The 21-year-old prodigy joined Tirana from Gençlerbirliği SK in 2011 and has proved an outstanding and shrewd addition. Considered one of the top prospects in Albanian football, Bala found the net 13 times to finish as Tirana's top goalscorer. A key component in midfield, he proved the man for the big occasion, too, by scoring the decisive goal in the Albanian Cup final.

One to watch: Ariel Shtini (FK Dinamo Tirana)
Appearing in his debut season with Dinamo, the 19-year-old shone with a succession of impressive performances. Displaying maturity beyond his years, Shtini played 22 games in all competitions, scoring three goals. Despite his efforts, Dinamo were relegated, meaning the youngster will be hot property this summer.

Surprise package: KS Teuta
After battling to avoid relegation last year, Teuta surprised all comers this season. Hasan Lika's charges started strongly and had streaked to the league summit by the winter break, five points clear of second-placed Tirana and six clear of Skënderbeu, in third. Despite collecting a further 24 points after the break – eight less then they had mustered in the first half of the season – the coastal side finished runners-up to Skënderbeu by a point with their best campaign since the end of the 2006-07 season when they also finished runners-up.

Leading Scorer: Roland Dervishi, KS Shkumbini (20)

Relegated: FK Dinamo Tirana, KS Pogradeci, KS Kamza

Promoted: KS Luftëtari, KF Përparimi Kukës, KS Besa

Number: 26
For the first time in nearly a decade the Albanian Super League comprised of just 26 matches.

Quote
"I am in heaven. I have won a title, the first of my career. I come from the Czech Republic where I thought football was big. I was wrong, because in city of Korca they eat, breath and live football." Stanislav Levý after leading Skënderbeu to the title.

Last updated: 10/07/12 14.00CET

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http://www.uefa.com/memberassociations/association=alb/news/newsid=1800308.html#season+review+albania

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