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Season review: Azerbaijan

Published: Friday 18 May 2012, 16.55CET
Neftçi PFK earned their second successive title win, but they could not complete the double as Bakı FK overcame them in the Azerbaijani Cup final to lift the trophy for the third time.
by Erkin Ibragimov
from Baku
Season review: Azerbaijan
Neftçi PFK captain Rail Melikov, about to receive the Azerbaijani Premier League trophy ©Viktoriya Melnik
Published: Friday 18 May 2012, 16.55CET

Season review: Azerbaijan

Neftçi PFK earned their second successive title win, but they could not complete the double as Bakı FK overcame them in the Azerbaijani Cup final to lift the trophy for the third time.

Neftçi PFK successfully defended their Azerbaijani Premier League title, finishing top of the pile for the seventh time with two matches to spare. Yet in the cup final the champions were beaten by Bakı FK, who claimed the trophy for the third time.

Champions: Neftçi PFK
Last season Neftçi became Azerbaijani champions for the first time in six years under Arif Asadov. This time around Beyukaga Gadjiev was the coach, and his squad were the most prolific in the league, scoring 55 goals and finished four points clear despite losing both games after securing the title.

Cup final: Neftçi PFK 0-2 Bakı FK
At the time of the cup final, Neftçi had already been declared champions, while Bakı were eager to make amends for a poor league campaign. Novruz Azimov's side scored two beautiful goals in the first 15 minutes through Sergio Koke and Juninho, and went on to win the national cup for the third time in their history.

European places*
Neftçi PFK – UEFA Champions League, second qualifying round
Xäzär Länkäran FK – UEFA Europa League, first qualifying round
İnter Bakı PİK – UEFA Europa League, first qualifying round
Bakı FK – UEFA Europa League, second qualifying round

*Subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the year: Aleksandar Šolić (Bakı FK)**
Despite Bakı having not the best season, their Croatian talisman played well. He was the team's top scorer with seven goals, finishing ahead of newcomer Winston Parks, of whom the club had huge expectations, and Bakı won all six games where Šolić scored. He helped his side to win the cup, and now the midfielder is reportedly on the radar of clubs such as GNK Dinamo Zagreb.

**UEFA.com choice (official player of the year to be announced)

One to watch: Gara Garayev (Qarabağ FK)
This versatile 19-year-old is used by Qarabağ coach Gurban Gurbanov as a full-back, as well as a defensive midfielder. This season he played 21 times in the league, mostly as an anchorman, and is already a key player in the Azerbaijan Under-21 side.

Surprise package: Qarabağ FK
Qarabağ were the surprise of the season, but unfortunately for their fans it was not a positive one. The most popular club in the country, which in recent years has twice reached the UEFA Europa League play-off round, failed to earn a place in Europe this season. After a poor finish to the campaign, Qarabağ finished fourth with 4-1 loss to Xäzär Länkäran in the final round of games sealing their fate.

Leading scorer: Bakhodir Nasimov (Neftçi PFK) – 16 goals

Relegated: Sumqayıt Şähär PFK***

Promoted: Garadag-Lokbatan FK

*** Subject to final confirmation by the Association of Football Federations of Azerbaijan (AFFA).

Number: 3
Qäbälä FK only finished fifth in the league, yet they beat the champions three times, including two victories away from home. Despite this, they did not achieve European qualification.

Quote
"How will he do that? Will his players run backwards at the training session? Or run sideways? I don't know about Rednic, but Neftçi always prepare the same way for every match."
Neftçi coach Beyukaga Gadjiev, after hearing Xäzär Länkäran coach Mircea Rednic had put his side through special preparation for the match with Neftçi.

Last updated: 10/07/12 0.10CET

http://www.uefa.com/memberassociations/association=aze/news/newsid=1798876.html#season+review+azerbaijan

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