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Season review: FYROM

Published: Saturday 15 June 2013, 16.35CET
FK Vardar did not make things easy for themselves yet still claimed successive Macedonian titles, while FK Teteks had a mixed year, lifting the cup but suffering relegation.
by Emil Gasevski
Season review: FYROM
Blagoja Milevski took Vardar to the title ©FK Ekranas
Published: Saturday 15 June 2013, 16.35CET

Season review: FYROM

FK Vardar did not make things easy for themselves yet still claimed successive Macedonian titles, while FK Teteks had a mixed year, lifting the cup but suffering relegation.

FK Vardar retained the title, but they did not do things the easy way in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Despite leading going into the winter break, the club changed coaches, only to see their advantage evaporate. A swift rehiring occured and a strong finish saw the title theirs. In the cup final, relegated FK Teteks prevailed on penalties. 

Champions: FK Vardar
The champions had a three-point advantage over second-placed FK Turnovo and led FK Metalurg Skopje by seven going into the spring campaign, but somehow lost their way following the unexpected replacement of Blagoja Milevski with Nikola Ilievski.

Vardar won just two of their first seven games after the change and with eight rounds to play trailed their rivals by a point. Milevski was swiftly ushered back into the dugout and guided the Red and Blacks to seven victories and a draw, ensuring successive crowns for the first time since 2003.

"I want to give my sincerest congratulations to my players, who deservedly won the title and proved for a second year running that they are the best," said Milevski, for whom this was a maiden championship in his debut coaching season.

Cup final: FK Teteks 1-1 FK Shkëndija 79 (Teteks won 6-5 on penalties)
Teteks put behind them the disappointment of relegation by repeating their 2010 cup success, this time at the expense of city rivals Shkëndija. Muzafer Ejupi gave Shkendija a 17th-minute lead before they went down to ten men following the dismissal of goalkeeper Hadis Velii. Teteks managed to capitalise through a Darko Micevski equaliser, and with nothing to separate the sides the game went to penalties, where Vanche Manchevski proved the hero, saving two spot kicks.

European places
FK Vardar – UEFA Champions League second qualifying round
FK Teteks – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
FK Metalurg Skopje – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
FK Turnovo – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round

*subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the Year: Dejan Blazevski (FK Turnovo)
The 27-year-old attacking midfielder enjoyed his finest season having returned to his homeland following four years in Greece. Exceptionally consistent, Blazevski was Turnovo's true leader on the pitch, scoring 18 goals in 32 matches and providing 12 assists. After making his international debut as a substitute in a 3-2 friendly win against Slovenia last November, Blazevski scored his first goal in Macedonian colours during a 4-1 defeat by Poland the following month.

One to watch: Marko Simonovski (FK Metalurg Skopje)
The capital side promoted a number of their talented youth players into the starting XI, and it was 21-year-old Simonovski who proved the pick of the bunch. An attacker with fine technical skills, good movement and more than capable in the air, he scored ten goals in 28 league matches in a campaign where he spent the first half on loan at FK Napredok. An Under-21 international, Simonovski also made his senior FYROM debut in December's friendly against Poland.

Surprise package: FK Turnovo
Many predicted that Turnovo would be fighting for survival again after a season when they managed to remain in the top flight only via a play-off. However, Ljupčo Dimitkovski's squad, comprised mainly of local talent, surprised everyone and would have won a first title in their 56-year history had they beaten Vardar on the last day. Nevertheless, the club from a village of just 500 people still achieved their first top-three finish and ended the term as the side with fewest defeats, four, in the division.

Leading scorer: Jovan Kostovski, FK Vardar (22)

Relegated: FK Sileks, FK Teteks

Promoted: FK Makedonija GP Skopje, FK Gostivar

Number: 1
Former titans FK Sileks were relegated for the first time. The club from the small town of Kratovo have competed in every season of the Macedonian First League since the country's independence in 1991, winning three titles in succession (1996, 1997, 1998) and the cup twice (1994, 1997).

Quote
"I was replaced when our title rivals were behind us and brought back when we were trailing them. I had no illusions that it was going to be exceptionally difficult to restore the level of confidence to my players, but I accepted the challenge, convinced that we would finish on top. This title completely belongs to my players, they earned it. Well, okay, maybe I had a small contribution as well."
Vardar coach Milevski after guiding the capital side to the title, despite being dismissed during the winter break, only to be rehired in April.

Last updated: 15/06/13 16.38CET

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