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Season review: Moldova

Published: Wednesday 30 May 2012, 16.45CET
Accused of playing "very nervous football", FC Sheriff nevertheless stole home for an 11th national title, while FC Milsami-Ursidos Orhei ended the season with a first Moldovan Cup.
by Evgheni Balaniuc
from Tiraspol
Season review: Moldova
Benjamin Balima and José Coelho celebrate Sheriff's title success ©Sergey Sokolov
Published: Wednesday 30 May 2012, 16.45CET

Season review: Moldova

Accused of playing "very nervous football", FC Sheriff nevertheless stole home for an 11th national title, while FC Milsami-Ursidos Orhei ended the season with a first Moldovan Cup.

After their run of ten straight titles ended last season, FC Sheriff claimed their 11th crown, while FC Milsami-Ursidos Orhei won their first major trophy, the Moldovan Cup.

Champions: FC Sheriff
Having lost out to FC Dacia Chisinau last season, Sheriff went head-to-head with Igor Dobrovolski's side again in 2011/12. Having led the table for most of the season, Sheriff ceded first place to Dacia in the 25th round, but the capital side stumbled in the closing straight, with a defeat against FC Olimpia Balti and a draw with FC Tiraspol in successive games allowing their rivals to steal top spot. "These emotions are superb," said Sheriff’s young Serbian striker Aleksandar Pešić. "I always believed in the team and I hope we will be much more successful in Europe next term."

Cup final: FC Milsami-Ursidos Orhei 0-0 CSCA-Rapid Chisinau (aet, Milsami win 5-3 on pens)
With both sides appearing in the final for the first time, the fates looked to be conspiring in Milsami's favour, with the decider being scheduled for their home stadium in Orhei – the first time the final had been played outside Chisinau. An uncompromising battle went to penalties, with Milsami goalkeeper Andrian Negai saving the crucial spot kick from Daniel Ionut Barna to take the trophy. "I was 80% sure he would aim for my right-hand corner," said Negai. "Why? Left-footed defenders usually do that."

European places*
FC Sheriff – UEFA Champions League, first qualifying round
FC Dacia Chisinau – UEFA Europa League, first qualifying round
FC Zimbru Chisinau – UEFA Europa League, first qualifying round
FC Milsami-Ursidos Orhei – UEFA Europa League, second qualifying round

* subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the Year: Benjamin Balima (FC Sheriff)
MKS Cracovia Kraków forward Alexandru Suvorov was voted Moldovan player of the year for 2011 back in December for his form with the national team. However, in terms of domestic performances, Sheriff's Burkina Faso international attacking midfielder Balima is a hot tip for the 2012 award, racking up 18 goals despite his seventh season with the club being interrupted by injuries and an Africa Cup of Nations campaign.

One to watch: Aleksandar Pešić (FC Sheriff)
Having started the season as a reserve, the Serbian Under-21 international forward came to the fore in spring, standing in for Balima and scoring several key goals, including three doubles and a hat-trick. He scored 14 in the league altogether, finishing joint second in the top scorers list behind Balima – and level with FC Zimbru Chisinau's Oleg Molla – ending the campaign with a regular first-team slot despite competition from Balima and Darvin Rios.

Surprise package: CSCA-Rapid Chisinau
CSCA-Rapid had a bizarre season by most standards. Having gone through three coaches in the course of the campaign – including former Romanian international Ionel Gane, who lasted less than a month – the club led by president Victor Ostap were already relegated by the time they reached the cup final, where they acquitted themselves well despite losing on penalties.

Leading scorer: Benjamin Balima, FC Sheriff (18)

Relegated: FC Costuleni, CSCA-Rapid Chisinau

Promoted: FC Speranta Nisporeni, FC Intersport-Aroma*

*to be confirmed by the Football Association of Moldova (FMF) executive committee

Number: 0
The number of goals scored in the three 2011/12 league matches between table-toppers Sheriff and eventual runners-up Dacia.

Quote:
"Sheriff will not win the league, because they play very nervous football – they have butterflies in their tummies."
Dacia coach Igor Dobrovolski speaks too soon after a 0-0 draw against Sheriff left his side two points clear at the top with nine games to go.

Last updated: 12/07/12 10.04CET

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