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Season review: Belarus

Published: Monday 3 December 2012, 16.30CET
FC BATE Borisov's "strongest ever" team were champions of the Belarusian Premier League for the seventh season running while FC Naftan Novopolotsk took the cup spoils.
by Denis Orlov
from Minsk
Season review: Belarus
BATE once again had plenty of cause for celebration this season ©Pressball
Published: Monday 3 December 2012, 16.30CET

Season review: Belarus

FC BATE Borisov's "strongest ever" team were champions of the Belarusian Premier League for the seventh season running while FC Naftan Novopolotsk took the cup spoils.

While FC BATE Borisov further consolidated their position as Belarus's finest with a seventh straight league title, FC Naftan Novopolotsk enjoyed cup success and Dmitri Osipenko hit a league-leading 14 goals.

Champions: FC BATE Borisov
Viktor Goncharenko's team had a difficult start to the season, losing 2-0 to FC Gomel in the Belarusian Super Cup before a 1-0 defeat by FC Minsk in their top-flight opener. However, they bounced back with a 12-match winning streak to take a firm grip on the top of the table which they never looked likely to relinquish. They clinched the title with two games to spare thanks to a 5-1 win against Minsk.

Cup final: FC Minsk 2-2 FC Naftan Novopolotsk (3-4 on pens)
The capital side twice came from behind but were still condemned to defeat by a team which finished just five points off the foot of the Belarusian Premier League. Aleksei Gavrilovich converted the winning spot kick to secure Naftan's second cup success, three years after their first. "To survive 120 minutes in such hot weather is a huge achievement," said Naftan coach Igor Kovalevich.

European places*
FC BATE Borisov – UEFA Champions League second qualifying round
FC Shakhtyor Soligorsk – UEFA Europa League second qualifying round
FC Dinamo Minsk – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
2013 Belarusian Cup winner – UEFA Europa League second qualifying round

*Subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the year: Stanislav Dragun (FC Dinamo Minsk)
Dinamo's captain was solid throughout the season, showing himself to be equally influential in attack and defence. He was the club's leading scorer with seven league goals and came further to the fore with the Belarus national team at the London 2012 Olympic Games. He iced his own personal cake with a goal and assist as Belarus beat Georgia 2-0 in a FIFA World Cup qualifier in mid-October.

One to watch: Denis Polyakov (FC BATE Borisov)
The young defender lived up to expectations after joining from FC Shakhtyor Soligorsk last winter for a €600,000 fee. Polyakov, 21, swiftly established himself in the BATE starting XI and proved a key part of the champions' side; reliable and quick to make decisions, he looks set to go from strength to strength.

Surprise package: FC Neman Grodno
Though they did not quite hit the heights of 2002, when they were Belarusian runners-up, Neman still enjoyed their first top-five finish in a decade. Their progress was even more impressive because of an attacking style which reaped 43 league goals, a tally topped only by BATE (51) and Shakhtyor (59). Captain Ivan Denisevich was especially eye-catching with ten goals and 23 assists.

Leading scorer: Dmitri Osipenko (FC Shakhtyor Soligorsk), 14 goals

Number: 7
BATE's domestic dominance continued with a seventh title on the bounce. Not since 2005, when  Shakhtyor topped the pile, has another club lifted the league trophy in Belarus.

Relegated: none

Promoted: FC Dnepr Mogilev

Quote
"This is the strongest team in our history. We have a perfect squad with players who have Champions League and international experience. Our strength in depth has also been key. I'm often asked if I am fed up with collecting domestic titles. I answer honestly that you simply can't get tired of winning matches and trophies. Each of them is won by hard work, tears, sweat, injuries and operations."
BATE coach Goncharenko praises his side's dedication.

Last updated: 03/12/12 21.32CET

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