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Season review: Albania

Published: Thursday 3 June 2010, 17.28CET
KS Dinamo Tirana lost eight of their last ten league matches but nevertheless finished eight points clear at the Albanian Super League summit to claim their 18th title.
by Fatjon Pandovski
Season review: Albania
Dinamo celebrate their title triumph ©www.albaniasoccer.com
Published: Thursday 3 June 2010, 17.28CET

Season review: Albania

KS Dinamo Tirana lost eight of their last ten league matches but nevertheless finished eight points clear at the Albanian Super League summit to claim their 18th title.

KS Dinamo Tirana endured a miserable close to the campaign but nevertheless finished comfortably clear at the Albanian Super League summit to claim their 18th title.

Champions: KS Dinamo Tirana
Dinamo secured the title with four rounds of fixtures still remaining. Indeed, with eight games left they led by 18 points and subsequently dropped down the gears and entered into a run of seven successive defeats. It mattered not, though, for they had already done enough to secure the championship in the club's 60th anniversary year.

Cup final: KS Besa 2-1 KS Vllaznia
Respective winners in 2006 and 2007, Besa and Vllaznia faced off in a dramatic 2010 showpiece. Vllaznia took the lead on 65 minutes through teenage striker Bekim Bala's header, but defender Renato Arapi levelled the scores with five minutes remaining and Paulin Dhëmbi completed the turnaround for Besa. It was a happy end to a tough time for coach coach Shpetim Duro, who won his first Albanian Cup despite being dismissed from his role earlier in the week, only to be reappointed two days later after players called for his reinstatement.

European places*
KS Dinamo Tirana – UEFA Champions League second qualifying round
KS Besa – UEFA Europa League second qualifying round
KF Tirana – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
KF Laçi – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
*Subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the year: Elis Bakaj (KS Dinamo Tirana)
The 22-year-old, who has represented Albania at every age level, was voted Albanian Player of the Year after scoring 15 times in 29 league appearances for Dinamo, three fewer than the division's leading marksman. "I was aiming to win the treble, but the Golden Boot wasn't part of my plans," said Bakaj. "If it was, I would have made sure I scored 30 or 40 goals, but I didn't. I won the title and the MVP, and that's a great achievement."

One to watch: Bekim Bala (KS Vllaznia)
Having never made a league start until this season, the 19-year-old forward made 30 appearances during the course of the campaign and finished as his side's top scorer with nine goals. His performances earned him an Albania Under-21 call-up and he made a scoring debut in the 2-2 draw against Poland on 26 May.

Surprise package: KF Laçi
Laçi confounded the doubters with a fourth-placed top-flight finish following promotion last season. Coach Stavri Nica has taken his share of the plaudits after keeping the squad together during a mid-season dip in form and guiding them to a place in the qualifying rounds of the UEFA Europa League for the first time in their history.

Leading scorer: Daniel Xhafaj, KS Besa (18)

Relegated: KS Apolonia, KS Gramozi

Promoted: KS Bylis, KS Elbasani

Quote
"Dinamo were by far the best team in the league and were true champions this season. Laçi, on the other hand, have surprised all of us with their impressive performances. Congratulations to them on a very successful season as well to all the other teams."
Armand Duka, president of the Football Association of Albania sums up the season

Last updated: 03/06/10 9.36CET

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http://www.uefa.com/memberassociations/association=alb/news/newsid=1494490.html#season+review+albania

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