Neftçi PFK have been crowned Azerbaijani champions after a 2-1 victory away against Qarabağ FK lifted them ten points clear of nearest pursuers İnter Bakı PİK with three games left to play.
Buoyed by İnter's 0-0 stalemate with Xäzär Länkäran FK, Neftçi took full advantage to secure first place, although they faced resilient opposition from Qarabağ. Despite coming into the match on the back of three defeats in four matches in all competitions, the visitors dominated for long periods and were thwarted by inspired Neftçi goalkeeper Saša Stamenković, who saved Vagif Javadov's first-half penalty before being unable to stop the same player opening the scoring on 67 minutes.
But just as Neftçi's hopes of wrapping things up waned, the holders restored parity courtesy of Rashad Abdullayev's splendid 30-metre strike. The comeback was completed in added time when Flavinho was brought down in the area and Ruslan Abışov converted from the spot. Neftçi will now have the chance to secure a domestic double when they meet Bakı FK in the Azerbaijani Cup final.
"Celebrating a double would be a great end to the season," said Neftçi defender Ruslan Ämircanov. "We haven't played in a final for eight years, so we have to make the most of our opportunity. The secret of our success is simple – the great atmosphere within the club.”
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