Qarabağ FK coach Gurban Gurbanov struggled to contain his emotions after sealing the club's first Azerbaijani Premier League title in 21 years with a 4-1 home victory over second-placed İnter Bakı PİK on Wednesday night.
A tearful Gurbanov, who turned 42 under a month ago, has been in charge since 2008 and was understandably elated after Brazilian midfielder Reynaldo struck a hat-trick as Qarabağ took an unassailable nine-point lead with two games remaining over nearest rivals İnter. "We have had an outstanding season," he said. "I thank our players for their displays, our fans for their support and our board for creating all the conditions for the team to reach such heights. Thanks everyone! This league is a marathon – it was a long but steady road for us. We have dreamt of being champions for a long time."
Qarabağ will enter the UEFA Champions League in the second qualifying round, a prospect Gurbanov is relishing. "We succeeded because we worked hard and were hungry to be winners," he added. "We all understand that we now have a great responsibility to perform well in the UEFA Champions League. We have to keep up this pace and fight only for success."
Wednesday's win was Qarabağ's 21st of the campaign and ensured they go into their last two games of term as the division's top scorers with 65 goals from 34 outings – as well as the meanest defence with just 18 goals conceded. "It's really satisfying to win the title like this," said a modest Gurbanov, who remains the Azerbaijan national team's all-time leading marksman and also becomes the second man after Arif Asadov to claim the title as both player and coach. "We have had everything – pace, chances and great goals aplenty. İnter also deserve to be champions. I have always appreciated the work of their coach Kakhaber Tskhadadze."
Defender Rashad F Sadygov, twice a champion with Neftçi PFK, nonetheless admitted to feeling overwhelmed after getting over the line during his second spell with Qarabağ. "I was not confident we would win against İnter because they have been on a good run," he said, with half an eye on Europe's premier club competition next term.
"However, we managed to get the job done despite the pressure of people congratulating us on the title beforehand. I try not to show my emotions very much but there is a storm inside me! I am already thinking about the UEFA Champions League."
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