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Season review: Azerbaijan

Published: Wednesday 26 May 2010, 14.41CET
The 2009/10 title dropped into FC İnter Bakı's laps on the last day of term while FK Bakı took the Azerbaijani Cup as the season ended with a double whammy for FK Khazar Lankaran.
by Erkin Ibragimov
from Baku
Season review: Azerbaijan
İnter Bakı celebrate snatching the title on the last day of the Azeri season ©azerifootball.com
Published: Wednesday 26 May 2010, 14.41CET

Season review: Azerbaijan

The 2009/10 title dropped into FC İnter Bakı's laps on the last day of term while FK Bakı took the Azerbaijani Cup as the season ended with a double whammy for FK Khazar Lankaran.

If the headline news was FC İnter Bakı winning their second Azerbaijani Premier League title in three years, it was also noteworthy that last season's champions FK Bakı took the Azärbaycan Kuboku for a second time while conspiring to deny FK Khazar Lankaran a domestic double.

Champions: FC İnter Bakı
After İnter failed to defend their title in 2009, Georgian coach Kakhaber Tskhadadze replaced Valentin Khodukin at the helm and soon had the side playing flowing, attacking football. They topped the Premyer Liqası going into the winter break, yet still had to steal the honours from second place on the last day of term – thrashing FK Qäbälä 4-1 while leaders Lankaran slipped up at home to Bakı.

Cup final: FK Bakı 2-1 FK Khazar Lankaran
Having denied Khazar the league crown, Bakı compounded the blow in the cup final. Bakı's Croatian duo Ernad Skulić and Aleksandar Šolić scored with long-range efforts in extra time before Lankaran defender Elvin Beqiri halved the deficit with a well-taken free-kick. However, Bakı were not to be refused a second Azerbaijani Cup following their triumph in 2005.

European places*
FC İnter Bakı – UEFA Champions League second qualifying round
FK Bakı – UEFA Europa League second qualifying round
FK Qarabağ – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
FK Khazar Lankaran – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
*Subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the year: Jabá (FK Bakı)
Bakı would have been pushed to lift the cup and finish as league runners-up without diminutive Brazilian marksman Jabá. Despite playing as a lone striker for most of the campaign, he scored ten top-flight goals and also registered against İnter in the cup semi-finals.

One to watch: Novruz Mammadov (FK Muğan Salyan)
With no limits on foreign players in the Premier League, youngsters can struggle to prove their worth. However, right-back Mammadov commanded a first team place on merit, with the 20-year-old ever-present for his side in the top flight. He also broke into the Azerbaijan Under-21 squad in a season in which PFC Neftçi's Tarlan Guliyev, Araz Abdullayev and Amit Guluzade also showed promise.

Surprise package: FK Qäbälä
In what was an exceptionally competitive year, the modest outfit from Qabala held their own, finishing sixth and confounding the so-called bigger clubs. They caused an even bigger stir at the end of term by naming former Arsenal FC and England defender Tony Adams as their new coach.

Leading scorer: Farid Guliyev, FK Standard Sumqayit (16)

Relegated: FK Karvan Evlakh, FK Standard Sumqayit

Promoted: FK MOIK, FK Gança

Number: 3
The number of coaches Bakı went through during a surprisingly successful season: namely, Gjoko Hadzievski, Bülent Korkmaz and Cüneyt Biçer.

Quote
"Our coach Agasalim Mirjaradov is not going anywhere. The fans want him dismissed? Their job is to support the team. The fans can come and take the reins if that's what they want. Anyone interested is welcome to try."
Lankaran's honorary president Mubariz Mansimov after his side lost the title with a 1-0 last-day defeat by Bakı.

Last updated: 01/06/10 18.56CET

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