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Season review: Lithuania

Published: Sunday 7 December 2014, 13.38CET
VMFD Žalgiris had their way for the second Lithuanian season running, clinching another double thanks to player of the year Deividas Šemberas, back at his boyhood club.
by Vaidotas Januška
from Vilnius
Season review: Lithuania
Žalgiris swept all before them again in Lithuania this season ©Valdas Knyzelis
Published: Sunday 7 December 2014, 13.38CET

Season review: Lithuania

VMFD Žalgiris had their way for the second Lithuanian season running, clinching another double thanks to player of the year Deividas Šemberas, back at his boyhood club.

VMFD Žalgiris defended Lithuania's First Division title in convincing fashion and won every trophy on offer for the second successive season while minnows FK Kruoja shocked the nation with a second-placed finish.

Champions: VMFD Žalgiris
Despite pre-season changes to the core of the squad, the championship holders were rock solid throughout, clinching the title with four rounds to spare and avoiding a repeat of last year's nerve-wracking drama. Squad depth was the key as a number of players contributed – Linas Pilibaitis proved a prime example of this resourcefulness as the makeshift forward scored 17 goals after being deployed in attack following a spate of injuries.

"We didn't show as much emotion as last year, but it gives us plenty of satisfaction because we did everything ourselves and did not need any favours. It was a really good season," said midfielder Artūras Žulpa.

Cup final: VMFD Žalgiris 2-1 FK Banga
Žalgiris earned the first part of their double in May as a third consecutive Lithuanian Cup took their tally in the competition to eight triumphs. First-half goals from Jakub Wilk and Pilibaitis secured a comfortable victory over the side from Gargzdai, who managed a late consolation. "You never get enough of them. My trophy cabinet still has space!" said veteran striker Andrius Velička after winning his fifth cup.

European places*
VMFD Žalgiris – UEFA Champions League second qualifying round
FK Kruoja – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
FK Atlantas – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
FK Trakai/FK Spyris/FK Šilas# – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
*subject to final confirmation from UEFA
#depending on Lithuanian Cup results

Player of the year: Deividas Šemberas (VMFD Žalgiris)
The ex-PFC CSKA Moskva stalwart rejoined his boyhood side and has added more trophies to his impressive haul collected in more than a decade in Russia. While the 36-year-old's temperament has got him in hot water more than once, Šemberas was coolness personified with the ball at his feet, orchestrating things either from defence or midfield and using his vast experience and ambition to lead the team to success.

One to watch: Edvinas Gertmonas (FK Atlantas)
Lithuania has a long history of goalkeeping excellence and Gertmonas is the hottest recent prospect. A top-flight debutant with struggling FK Tauras aged 17 last year, he moved to Atlantas midway through the 2014 campaign and forced his way into the side. Conceding just twice in his nine appearances – his team winning eight of those to come third – Gertmonas has also impressed at youth level for Lithuania. He helped the Under-19 squad reach the UEFA European Championship elite round in October, while also playing regularly for U21s at the age of 18.

Surprise package: FK Kruoja
The modest outfit from Pakruojis finished in the top half of the table for the past three years, but after a rocky pre-season few expected Kazakh coach Vladimir Cheburin to steal a march on the bigger clubs and land silver for the first time in his team's history. Seasoned striker Ričardas Beniušis led the way with 15 goals and eight assists, while playmaker Tautvydas Eliošius was the league's most improved player.

Leading scorer: Niko Tokič (FC Šiauliai), 19 goals

Relegated: FK Dainava

Promoted: FK Stumbras

Number: 11
Another championship with Žalgiris was Andrius Velička's 11th, the record number of titles won by an individual.

Quote
"When some players are in one-on-one situations, I am 99% certain they will not score."
FK Sūduva's interim coach Audrius Ramonas's brutally honest assessment of his side's poor finishing, which he says cost them a place in the top three.

Last updated: 07/12/14 17.58CET

http://www.uefa.com/memberassociations/association=ltu/news/newsid=2191439.html#season+review+lithuania