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Season review: Belarus

Published: Monday 9 December 2013, 17.51CET
FC BATE Borisov lifted an eighth successive title but ended the season without coach Viktor Goncharenko, while FC Minsk's nerve held as they won the cup final on penalties.
by Denis Orlov
from Minsk
Season review: Belarus
BATE celebrate a league win against Shakhtyor ©Pressball
Published: Monday 9 December 2013, 17.51CET

Season review: Belarus

FC BATE Borisov lifted an eighth successive title but ended the season without coach Viktor Goncharenko, while FC Minsk's nerve held as they won the cup final on penalties.

There were no big surprises in the 2013 Belarusian Premier League as FC BATE Borisov won an eighth successive title. However, the Yellow-Blues were not so dominant and waved goodbye to their coach towards the end of the campaign, with Viktor Goncharenko heading to Russian side FC Kuban Krasnodar.

Champions: FC BATE Borisov
BATE were knocked out of the UEFA Champions League in the second qualifying round by FC Shakhter Karagandy, and played second fiddle to the latter's near namesakes FC Shakhtyor Soligorsk in the league until the 24th round. Some points were dropped carelessly, yet a haul of eight from their four meetings with Shakhtyor proved decisive. BATE claimed the crown with two games to spare after Aleksandr Yermakovich had stepped in to replace Goncharenko. "This is Viktor Goncharenko's title," said Yermakovich. "We just tried to finish what he started."

Cup final: FC Minsk 1-1 FC Dinamo Minsk (aet, Minsk win 4-1 on pens)
After beating FC Isloch, FC Gorodeya and FC Torpedo Zhodino en route, Minsk lifted their first Belarusian Cup after a nervy final against their capital rivals. Neither side admitted to having practised penalties in advance of the contest, Minsk midfielder Maksim Bukatkin saying: "Why bother? There is no pressure doing it in training. If you have to take penalties in a match of such importance, it's a completely different story."

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
TBC (2013/14 Belarusian Cup winner) – UEFA Europa League second qualifying round

*Subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the year*: Aleksandr Pavlov (FC BATE Borisov)
Ten goals and five assists were a measure of the experienced midfielder's contribution. Usually deployed as a match-winning substitute or replaced in the closing stages, the 29-year-old Pavlov played just five full matches but still ended up as the Premier League's most effective player – scoring a goal or making an assist every 87.2 minutes he played.
* UEFA.com choice

One to watch: Pavel Savitski (FC Neman Grodno)
Now a regular at Under-21 level, Savitski's class is no secret in Belarus, with the 19-year-old once more showing wisdom beyond his years. The forward offered a more rounded game in 2013, adding defensive muscle to his armoury; standout performances included a goal in a 2-1 home success against BATE, and a goal and an assist in a 3-1 victory over Dinamo.

Surprise package: FC Torpedo Zhodino
Having finished the previous season with a – successful – relegation play-off, Torpedo learned their lessons ahead of the new campaign. Igor Kriushenko's men put their troubles behind them to battle to a respectable fifth-placed finish, beating all the top teams at least once before falling short of a top-three finish in the closing stages.

Leading scorer: Vitali Rodionov (FC BATE Borisov), 14 goals

Relegated: FC Slavia Mozyr

Promoted: FC Slutsk

Number: 7
The number of defeats suffered by BATE – the highest yet for a championship winner.

Quote: "The European disappointment of the summer makes this title even more pleasing. We would have been real losers if we had failed to win the league. We were bursting with motivation to prove we made a mistake but have the potential to move forward. The players were right to say it's only about us whether we retain the title."
Anatoli Kapski, BATE president

Last updated: 09/12/13 18.01CET

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