On 17 May, Partizani were within 90 minutes of their first title since 1992/93 only to be frustrated in a 2-1 defeat by KS Dinamo Tirana which handed the crown to their opponents. They lost to Dinamo again at the weekend, with Artion Poçi and Sebino Plaku scoring for the home side in a 2-0 reverse, and are rooted to the foot of the table.
That loss proved too much for coach Hasan Lika to handle. For the second time in four matches he tendered his resignation and this time it was accepted. Having been in charge since November 2006, he was the longest-serving coach of any league team, with a three-year tenure representing an eternity in Albania.
Partizani president Albert Xahni was not prepared to let Lika go easily, however, handing him an administrative position at the Qemal Stafa Stadium. "Hasan Lika will be my right-hand man," he said. Meanwhile, the job of lifting spirits at the club considered, alongside KF Tirana, the most popular in Albania has fallen to Shpëtim Duro.
Once Albania's Under-19 coach and assistant to the senior national-team boss, Duro is a Partizani man through and through. He captained the side and spent his entire playing career with Partizani, before going on to coach their U17, U19 and reserve squads. "I took this position because I would love to help the team come out of this difficult situation," he said.
His job is unlikely to be an easy one. Money is tight, with players complaining of unpaid salaries and many key men having left in the summer: Arber Abilaliaj joined KS Besa while Tefik Osmani, Bledar Devolli and Gjergj Muzaka signed for Tirana. Albanian international Elis Bakaj has now asked for a transfer too.
Those Partizani players who jumped ship for Tirana, meanwhile, have helped their new club top the standings, although the leaders' Bosnian coach Blaž Slišković has yet to convince everyone. "We are a good team, but we also have to play well away from home," said Slišković, whose side have registered two wins and three draws on their travels.
Besa are second having won their last three games since Ilir Daja took over. The coach dedicated their weekend victory – 1-0 against KS Vllaznia – to club president Nexhat Bizhdili whose birthday was on Sunday. Elsewhere, KS Lushnja are the latest team to change manager, with Vasil Bici stepping in following Saimir Malko's resignation.
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