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Season review: Albania

Published: Thursday 13 June 2013, 9.28CET
KS Skënderbeu became the first team since KS Tirana in 2005 to claim three successive Albanian Super League titles, before KF Laçi sampled cup glory for the first time in their history.
by Fatjon Pandovski
Season review: Albania
Skënderbeu led the way from the off in Albania ©LSA
Published: Thursday 13 June 2013, 9.28CET

Season review: Albania

KS Skënderbeu became the first team since KS Tirana in 2005 to claim three successive Albanian Super League titles, before KF Laçi sampled cup glory for the first time in their history.

After 78 years without a league title, KF Skënderbeu made it three in as many seasons when they finished six points clear of the chasing pack. In the cup, final debutants KF Laçi left it late to defeat ten-man KS Bylis.

Champions: KS Skënderbeu
Albania's oldest club became the first team since KS Tirana in 2005 to be crowned champions three years running. The signs were ominous once Mirel Josa's charges had worked their way to the summit by the winter break courtesy of a 13-match unbeaten sequence. However, it was not all plain sailing for Skënderbeu, who made themselves sweat by losing three of their last four games with the title in sight. They were knocked out of the Albanian Cup in the semi-finals.

Cup final: KF Laçi 1-0 KS Bylis (aet) 
Bylis eliminated last year's runners-up – Skënderbeu – in the last four, but had their work cut out in the final. Naci Şensoy's side had to play for almost 75 minutes with ten men after Besmir Arifaj was shown a second yellow card early in the second half. However, their determined efforts frustrated Laçi, who passed up several good opportunities. That was until Erjon Vuçaj's delicious delivery in the 118th minute found Emiljano Çela, who beat Stivi Frashëri.

European Places
KS Skënderbeu – UEFA Champions League second qualifying round
KF Laçi – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
FK Kukësi – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
KS Teuta – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round

*subject to final confirmation from UEFA 

Player of the Year: Gilman Lika (KS Tirana)
Lika thrived on the added responsibility of being skipper. His leadership skills were invaluable during a turbulent season which featured an overhaul of the coaching staff and board at its midway point. "He kept this group of players together through adversity and he deserves a lot of credit. He is a great captain," said coach Nevil Dede.

One to watch: Gledi Mici (KS Flamurtari)
Tirana's attacking midfielder Mario Morina and dynamic KS Besa winger Insdriz Batha both enjoyed breakthrough seasons, yet it was Mici who shone brightest. The 22-year-old featured in 23 league games and was praised for his talent and "great work ethic" by boss Ernest Gjoka.

Surprise package: KF Kukësi
New to the Albanian Super League, the 'Northern Masters' were the only team to finish the season unbeaten at home. Meticulously organised and difficult to beat, Kukësi also impressed with flair and a clinical touch in the form of Lazar Popović, who hit 16 league goals. 

Leading scorer: Migen Memelli, KS Flamurtari (19)

Relegated:
KS Apolonia, KS Luftëtari, KS Shkumbini, KS Tomori

Promoted: FK Partizani, KS Lushnja

Number: 12
History will be made next season when Albania's top tier is cut from 14 teams to 12.

Quote
“We are back. It's nice to be back. We will continue to be here for many years to come".
Hasan Lika after his FK Partizani side ended their five-year absence from the top flight

Last updated: 13/06/13 9.31CET

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http://www.uefa.com/memberassociations/association=alb/news/newsid=1962423.html#season+review+albania

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