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Season review: Armenia

Published: Tuesday 28 May 2013, 12.43CET
FC Shirak claimed their fourth domestic title and might have made it a double but for FC Pyunik prospect Tarak Voskanyan, while FC Mika took an honourable second place.
by Khachik Chakhoyan
from Yerevan
Season review: Armenia
Shirak players celebrate after winning Armenian title ©Avetis Ghazanchyan
Published: Tuesday 28 May 2013, 12.43CET

Season review: Armenia

FC Shirak claimed their fourth domestic title and might have made it a double but for FC Pyunik prospect Tarak Voskanyan, while FC Mika took an honourable second place.

FC Shirak won their fourth Premier League title in Armenia but could not convert it into a double as they lost the cup final to an FC Pyunik side who unusually failed to secure a top-three finish. However, if ten-time champions Pyunik had a disappointing league campaign, it was nothing compared with Yerevan neighbours FC Banants, who were relegated for the first time at the close of a transitional 18-month season.

Champions: FC Shirak
Vardan Bichakhchyan took charge of Gyumri-based Shirak two years ago. Last term the former Shirak player led the club to their first Armenian Cup, and he topped that success this time around. They briefly held pole position towards the end of an eight-game winning streak last summer, and did not relent once they regained the lead in the 30th round of 42. Shirak were eventuallly crowned champions with two matches to spare, after Senegalese forward Yoro Lamine Ly hit the 19th of his 20 league goals in a 1-0 victory at Pyunik.

Cup final: FC Pyunik 1-0 FC Shirak
Shirak could have completed a domestic double in the space of five days, but it was not to be. The new champions dominated the decider, creating enough chances to win two games, yet Taron Voskanyan's goal on 40 minutes earned Pyunik their sixth cup. "This is the first trophy for this generation [of players]," said Pyunik coach Rafael Nazaryan, whose squad has an average age of less than 20. "Our commitment was the key to a success very few people believed in."

European places*
FC Shirak – UEFA Champions League first qualifying round
FC Pyunik – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
FC Mika – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
FC Gandzasar – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round

*Subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Surprise package: FC Mika
Ex-Slovakia defender Zsolt Hornyák proved something of a miracle worker in his first full season. The Yerevan outfit lost 11 first-teamers in pre-season, but a patched-together selection of reserve and youth-team players did the 40-year-old coach proud. Mika led the table for much of the campaign before a late wobble dashed their title hopes. Striker Semyon Muradyan was a notable contributor, netting 18 league goals despite making just five starts – featuring 34 times as a second-half substitute.

Player of the year: Andranik Barikyan (FC Shirak)
The results of the official player of the year competitition have yet to be announced, but 32-year-old Barikyan is sure to be among the frontrunners. A one-club man – he was on Shirak's books when they last landed the title in 1999 – the forward was as much of a menace without the ball as he was with it. He scored 12 and set up eight more, spending the rest of his time keeping opposition defences busy.

One to watch: Taron Voskanyan (FC Pyunik)
Pyunik's speciality is making the most of their academy products, and Voskanyan looks to be another success story. The 20-year-old was already a first-team regular in the last campaign, but the central defender's career has continued to gather pace. He made his senior international debut in a 4-2 friendly win against Lithuania last November, and ended up scoring four league goals as well as the cup final winner.

Leading scorer: Norayr Gezalyan, Impuls FC (22)

Relegated: FC Banants**

Promoted: FC Alashkert

**On 24 June Impuls declined their place in the top flight so Banants will take their spot next season

Number: 6
Levon Pachajyan left Armenia in 2007 after winning five successive titles with Pyunik; following stints in Sweden, Norway and Iran, he returned to sign for Shirak in 2012 and collected a sixth. The Armenia midfielder, 29, said: "I had a tough time before moving to Shirak. I hadn't trained for a while after coming home from Iran. I was waiting for offers from abroad but late problems came up. It was also important for me to achieve something after coming back to Armenia."

Quote
"I am so happy. I have never felt such happiness before. All credit to my players, it is their victory. Shirak had been striving for this success for so long. The city of Gyumri needs moments  like this; we have made the people happy. This is pure joy, and we achieved it through our own efforts and enthusiasm."
Shirak coach Vardan Bichakhchyan celebrates winning the league

Last updated: 25/06/13 10.17CET

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