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Season review: Albania

Published: Tuesday 26 May 2009, 11.10CET
For the third consecutive season, the Kategoria Superiore trophy remained in the Albanian capital, with KF Tirana beating rivals KS Vllaznia on the last day of the campaign to secure their second crown in three years.
by Fatjon Pandovski
from Tirana
Season review: Albania
Blendi Nallbani parades the league trophy ©www.albaniasoccer.com
Published: Tuesday 26 May 2009, 11.10CET

Season review: Albania

For the third consecutive season, the Kategoria Superiore trophy remained in the Albanian capital, with KF Tirana beating rivals KS Vllaznia on the last day of the campaign to secure their second crown in three years.

For the third consecutive season, the Kategoria Superiore trophy remained in the Albanian capital, with KF Tirana beating rivals KS Vllaznia on the last day of the campaign to secure their second crown in three years.

Champions: KF Tirana
Tirana's 2-1 last-day victory took them four points clear and wrapped up their 24th Albanian title. Vllaznia needed to win to take the championship spoils themselves but were trailing after just two minutes when Devi Muka struck from close range. Leading scorer Migen Memelli then doubled the home side's lead on the half-hour mark with his 21st goal of the season, before Xhevahir Sukaj's late consolation. The win took Tirana's unbeaten league run to 17 matches and ensured that a capital side has won the league title 56 times in the last 70 years.

Cup final: KS Flamurtari 2-1 KF Tirana
Flamurtari celebrated lifting the cup for the third time in their history and the first since 1988 after coming back from behind to end a sequence of three final losses to Tirana. Rezart Dabulla had headed Tirana in front shortly before half-time, but the underdogs fought back through Devis Mema after 65 minutes and Hair Zeqiri, whose winner deep into added time clinched a dramatic triumph.

European places:
Tirana – UEFA Champions League, second qualifying round
Flamurtari – UEFA Europa League, second qualifying round
Vllaznia – UEFA Europa League, first qualifying round
KS Dinamo Tirana – UEFA Europa League, first qualifying round

Player of the Year: Migen Memelli (KF Tirana)
On loan for the season from Swedish outfit GAIS Göteborg, the 29-year-old fired 21 goals in 28 matches and his side never lost a game in which he found the back of the net. Memelli's goalscoring exploits earned him a first international call-up, when he came on as a late substitute in the 3-0 FIFA World Cup qualifying loss to Denmark on 1 April.

One to watch: Emiliano Vila (KS Teuta)
The Albanian Under-21 international finished as one of the four most prolific strikers in the Kategoria Superiore, helping Teuta secure fourth-place in the end-of-term reckoning, a year after having gained promotion via a play-off.

Relegation equation:
Champions in 2005/06, KF Elbasani will operate in the second tier next term after seeing out the season in last place. That leaves Tirana and Dinamo as the only former titleholders to have never suffered demotion. Also relegated were KS Lushnja, while 15-time champions FK Partizani face a relegation play-off with second-flight KS Kastrioti in Durres on 30 May and KS Bylis must defend their Kategoria Superiore status against KS Gramozi Ersekë in Tirana a day earlier.

Leading scorer: Migen Memelli, Tirana (21)

Number: 410
Tirana goalkeeper Blendi Nallbani has contested 410 Kategoria Superiore matches since 1986/87, when he won his first title as back-up No1 for Partizani. The 2008/09 crown represented his ninth, moving him level with Nevil Dede as the only other player to have collected as many Albanian championship winners' medals. "It's the best title I've won," he said. "The pressure was huge and we managed to get through, even though a lot of people underestimated our strength."

Quote:
"I didn't want to go to the stadium to watch the final game of the season out of respect for the fans. I watched the match at home and I jumped up when Muka scored the first goal."
Albanian president Bamir Topi

Last updated: 26/05/09 14.56CET

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