In one of the most closely contested title races in history, FK Rabotnicki emerged as Macedonian Prva Liga champions for the first time since 2008, just four days after lifting the national cup.
Champions: FK Rabotnicki
Under the guidance of former sporting director Igor Angelovski, the champions poured scorn on their underdog status, landing the league crown on the penultimate day of the season. With a vibrant blend of youth and experience, Rabotnicki were fourth at the winter break but quickly climbed to the summit thanks to a run of seven wins from their nine remaining matches.
Having twice defeated cross-town rivals and title holders FK Vardar and scored more goals than any other top-flight side (66), Rabotnicki were worthy champions. As for 37-year-old coach Angelovski, he etched his name into the history books by becoming the youngest coach to scoop the title.
Cup final: FK Rabotnicki 2-0 FK Metalurg Skopje
Playing in their fifth cup final in seven years, 2008 and 2009 winners Rabotnicki were celebrating once more thanks to goals in either half by Borce Manevski and Petar Petrov after Oliver Peev was dismissed for Metalurg. "All credit goes to my players who were phenomenal tonight and deservedly won this final," Rabotnicki boss Angelovski told UEFA.com. "We wanted this trophy very much and now that it's in our hands, our joy is endless."
FK Rabotnicki – UEFA Champions League second qualifying round
FK Turnovo – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
FK Metalurg Skopje – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
FK Shkëndija 79 – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
*subject to final confirmation from UEFA
Player of the Year: Borce Manevski (FK Rabotnicki)
The division's second-top marksman with 17 strikes, Manevski played a pivotal role in his side's league and cup triumphs. A Prva Liga champion with Vardar the previous season, the 28-year-old attacking midfielder nonetheless showed no let-up in his pursuit of silverware, earning the nickname 'Mr Decision' for his penchant for scoring important goals. "We began the season as underdogs but finished it as heroes," said Manevski, whose form earned him international recognition for the first time since December 2010.
One to watch: Tauljant Sulejmanov (FK Rabotnicki)
Vardar midfielder Jasir Asani and Metalurg forward Marjan Radeski both impressed this term, but Sulejmanov shone brightest. A winger blessed with fine dribbling skills, he joined Rabotnicki from fourth-tier FK Milano last summer and instantly became an integral member of the side, weighing in with four goals in all competitions.
He made his international debut as a second-half substitute in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's 2-0 friendly loss to Cameroon on 26 May. "It was a wonderful moment, which I will cherish forever," said Sulejmanov, the youngest player in FYROM history to wear the national jersey at 17 years, six months and 12 days. He was swiftly snapped up by BSC Young Boys on a four-year contract at the end of the season.
Surprise package: FK Shkëndija 79
The 5-0 drubbing that Shkëndija received at Rabotnicki 16 games in drove them into the drop zone and promoted a change in coach, with former Albania assistant Shpëtim Duro replacing Gjore Jovanovski. With a new man in the dugout, the Tetovo-based club recorded three consecutive goalless draws before their rapid ascent in spring. From that point, Shkëndija collected 34 points from a possible 42, plundering 34 goals, 25 of which came from January signings Stênio Júnior, Bojan Vrućina and Mensur Kurtisi.
Concluding the season with a run of seven straight wins, Shkëndija's 4-0 victory against FK Pelister on the final day, combined with Vardar's goalless draw with FK Bregalnica Stip, enabled them to leapfrog the reigning champions into fourth and grab the last UEFA Europa League berth. "We achieved an incredible feat which wasn't a fluke but a result of very hard work from everyone involved at the club – the owners, the players and of course myself and my assistants," said Duro.
Leading scorer: Dejan Blazevski, FK Turnovo (19)
Relegated: FK Gostivar, FK Napredok, FK Makedonija, FK Gorno Lisice
Promoted: FK Sileks, FK Teteks
Turnovo forward Blazevski became the first player in Macedonian Prva Liga history to top the scoring charts despite only playing half the season, having moved to Azerbaijani Premier League club Xäzär Länkäran FK in January.
"For the first time, I was angry with my players. I entered the dressing room and said harshly: 'Look guys, you get to play this type of match maybe just once in your career. You've heard the results of the other games and they're good for us. So, if you want to be champions, there's still enough time when you get back on the pitch to prove to yourselves that you are the best.'"
Rabotnicki coach Angelovski reveals how he motivated his side as they shrugged off a goalless first half to beat Gorno Lisice 2-0 and win the title.
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