KS Vllaznia hope a change of coach can give their bid for an Albanian double new momentum with Agim Canaj resigning at the start of the month after the Shkoder side saw a seven-point lead at the top of the table evaporate.
Eight rounds ago Canaj's side were seven points clear of second-placed KF Tirana and seemingly forging on towards a tenth Albanian title – and a first since 2001. However, since Albaniain independence day on 29 November, little has gone right for Vllaznia. They surrendered top spot with a 0-0 draw at KS Elbasani on 15 February, and though they bounced back with victory against struggling KS Lushnja, questions about the side's vulnerability to pace and troubles breaking down tight defences renewed after a 4-0 loss at KS Teuta on 1 March, and Canaj quit.
Not for the first time, Dervish Hadziosmanovic has resumed command. 'Deda' took charge late last season and led Vllaznia to Albanian Cup success, and while the first game of his latest spell ended in a 0-0 draw at home against struggling KS Bylis, defender Elvin Beqiri chipped in with a goal at the death to snatch 1-0 at KS Apolonia at the weekend which kept Vllaznia level on points with Tirana at the top of the table.
Morale may not be high, but Hadziosmanovic's side still boast top players. Albanian international Beqiri, who also scored the winner against Teuta in the autumn, is looking to get his name on the scoresheet more often. "My personal ambition to do more work up front has paid off," he said at the weekend. "I have scored two very important goals and that makes me very satisfied."
At 21, striker Xhevahir Sukaj is also a man on a mission. Having failed to score in eleven games after joining Turkish side Haceteppe SK last summer, he returned to his hometown club in January, hitting a hat-trick in his second game – a 4-1 win against KS Besa on 4 February and scoring both goals in the 2-0 Lushnja win. The once-capped international might have been bruised by his experience in the Süper Lig, but no one doubts his ability.
It could be that Vllaznia's luck is now turning. They were drawn against Dinamo in the Albanian Cup quarter-finals, with the capital side winning 2-1 in Shkoder and drawing 0-0 at home. However, The Football Association of Albania ruled that in the second leg the champions had fielded an ineligible player, as Elis Bakaj who had played for FK Partizani in the previous round. The tie was awarded to Vllaznia and the chase for the double is very much on.
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