A 1-0 win against second-placed FK Milano on 8 March has all but confirmed FK Rabotnicki as Macedonian champions, but European places are still up for grabs.
There are 12 games to go until the end of the season, but with a 13-point lead at the top of the table, Rabotnicki are close to their third title in four seasons. The game against surprise contenders Milano was a crucial one, and was decided by a headed goal from midfielder Nderim Nedzipi. Rabotnicki have yet to lose in 21 league games this season, scoring 36 goals and conceding just six.
When not whether
"This match against Milano was a big step towards the championship title, but it's not over yet," said Rabotnicki assistant coach Zikica Tasevski. "We will continue to play the best we can and will not celebrate until we are mathematically certain of taking the title." With their main opponents conceding defeat, it is surely a matter of when rather than whether.
Kumanovo-based Milano, led by former F.Y.R. Macedonia and Rabotnicki coach Gjore Jovanovski, have adjusted their season targets. "Rabotnicki have a 13-point advantage so we will try to keep hold of second place and take a berth in next season's UEFA Cup. We are still in the running for the Macedonian Cup and we will try to at least win this trophy."
Weekend results brought Milano's UEFA Cup dream closer to fruition, with their 5-0 trouncing of FK Makedonija GK Skopje coinciding with a 2-1 win for FK Pelister against FK Vardar which saw the sides in third and fourth places swap positions and allowed Milano to move seven points clear of the chasing pack. Now fourth, Vardar are in danger of ending the season with nothing.
Coach Zoran Stratev has been furious with his player's recent performances and his mood was not improved by delays over getting a playing permit for Brazilian signing Roberto Carlos. "I told my players that they must improve," he said. "Once a few players are back from injury and Carlos is playing, some players will be out of the starting lineup. I'm ready to give young players a chance."
Reigning champions FK Pobeda are fifth, but failed to show up for their last match at FK Shkëndija 79, claiming their bus broke down and sparking rumours of financial problems. The game was awarded as a 3-0 win for the Tetovo side. At the foot of the table, FK Bashkimi and FK Cementarnica 55 are cast adrift in the relegation places. The sides who finish ninth and tenth will face an end-of-season play-off against the third and fourth placed second division sides.
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