FK Vardar established themselves as the most successful side in Macedonian First League history after securing a record sixth title with three rounds to spare. Ilco Gjorgioski's charges came close to finishing the season unbeaten but lost to FK Shkëndija 79 in their penultimate fixture. FK Renova also enjoyed a successful campaign after defeating FK Rabotnicki to lift their maiden Macedonian Cup.
Champions: FK Vardar
Fortunate to avoid relegation after finishing second-bottom last term, Vardar began the season with an entirely new team and coach. 40-year-old Ilco Gjorgioski, who guided FK Makedonija GP Skopje to their inaugural title in 2009, devised a talented squad and an unbeaten run of 19 games helped secure the club's first title in nine years. Unbeaten until the penultimate game, Vardar went top in early October when they beat holders FK Shkëndija 79, and never looked back. They also finished the season with most victories (22), the fewest goals conceded (15) and 20 clean sheets.
"This is a wonderful feeling," Ivanovski told UEFA.com. "We worked extra hard all year and we utterly deserve the title. We have been top of the table for a long time and strived to become champions as soon as possible. Today, we actually achieved this goal and I'm glad that we made our devoted army of fans happy."
Cup final: FK Renova 3-1 FK Rabotnicki
Out of the title race midway through the season, both sides turned their attentions to the cup and a final chance to qualify for Europe. Renova were buoyed by their semi-final victory against Vardar and took the lead on 13 minutes through Muarem Bajrami. Borče Manevski equalised for Rabotnicki eight minutes into the second half but Vlatko Kostov's side went on to lift their first Macedonian Cup thanks to goals from Dušan Simovski and Argjent Gafuri.
FK Vardar – UEFA Champions League, second qualifying round
FK Metalurg Skopje – UEFA Europa League, first qualifying round
FK Shkëndija 79 – UEFA Europa League, first qualifying round
FK Renova – UEFA Europa League, first qualifying round
Player of the year: Filip Ivanovski (FK Vardar)
The official player of the season might not be named until December but it will be hard to look past Vardar forward Ivanovski. The 27-year-old Macedonian joined the club in the summer after spells in Poland and Cyprus and was prolific in their title-winning campaign. He finished as the league's top scorer with 24 goals and earned an international call-up. "Coming back to Macedonia and staying in Vardar has definitely paid off," he said. "Everything was perfect."
One to watch: Darko Velkoski (FK Rabotnicki)
Awarded the Young Player of the Year in December, the 16-year-old continued to impress with excellent technical ability and passing range. He made his debut for Rabotnicki in the UEFA Europa League qualifying rounds and became a regular in the first team, scoring two goals in 27 league games, including five assists.
Surprise package: FK Renova
Prior to the start of the 2011/12 campaign Renova installed Vlatko Kostov at the helm. The 46-year-old tactician proved to be an inspired choice, leading the side rom the village of Dzepciste to their maiden Macedonian cup and a fourth-placed finish in the league. Renova impressed this season with their attacking style of play and were the league’s top scorers with 58 goals.
Leading scorer: Filip Ivanovski, FK Vardar (24)
Relegated: FK 11 Oktomvri, FK Ohrid 2004
Promoted: FK Pelister, FK Drita
FK Teteks meet FK Skopje and FK Turnovo face FK Euromilk in a promotion/relegation play-off on 2 and 3 June.
Minutes it took Filip Ivanovski to score three goals in Vardar's 5-1 win against FK Napredok in November, breaking Ivica Gligorovski's record for the fastest hat-trick in the Macedonian First League.
"We had a great desire to finish the season unbeaten, but have no regrets after failing to do so. We lost a battle but we won the war. It is most important that we got the title."
Vardar coach Ilco Gjorgoski after a 1-0 defeat at Shkëndija in the penultimate game of the season.
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