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Season review: Armenia

Published: Thursday 12 June 2014, 10.16CET
FC Banants won their first title and FC Pyunik a record seventh Armenian Cup, but spare a thought for FC Ararat, whose superb form deserted them in the spring.
by Khachik Chakhoyan
from Yerevan
Season review: Armenia
Banants rejoice after winning their first Armenian title ©Hakber

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Published: Thursday 12 June 2014, 10.16CET

Season review: Armenia

FC Banants won their first title and FC Pyunik a record seventh Armenian Cup, but spare a thought for FC Ararat, whose superb form deserted them in the spring.

FC Banants celebrated their first title win, outstripping FC Shirak, FC Mika and FC Ararat, who topped the table for much of the campaign but slumped to fourth in the final reckoning. FC Pyunik, meanwhile, received some consolation for a poor campaign as they lifted the Armenian Cup.

Champions: FC Banants
A 1-0 victory at Pyunik in their penultimate Premier League game of 2013/14 ended Banants' quest for a first championship in their 22-year history. Five-time runners-up, the Proud Eagles went into the winter break in fourth place – 11 points behind leaders Ararat – but a five-match winning streak at the start of spring propelled them up the rankings. They then held their nerve as Ararat's deserted them, stealing the title in the closing stretch. "We showed character and will to win," Banants' Slovak coach Zsolt Hornyák said. "We claimed this title thanks to our team spirit. I don't want to single out individuals as we have a great team."

©Hakber

Pyunik celebrate their cup win

Cup final: FC Pyunik 2-1 FC Gandzasar
Pyunik landed ten straight championships from 2001–10 but their seventh Armenian Cup salvaged a poor top-flight campaign in which they finished sixth. Pyunik scored early in both halves through Kamo Hovhannisyan and Sargis Baloyan and held on despite Gandzasar managing to cut the deficit. "It is a season to forget for Pyunik," coach Sargis Hovsepyan conceded. "We failed to maintain our standards and could not challenge for the top places. However, this cup success shows we have the potential to improve next term."

European places*
FC Banants – UEFA Champions League first qualifying round
FC Shirak – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
FC Mika – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
FC Pyunik – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round

*subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the year: Hovhannes Hambartsumyan (FC Banants)
There is no official player of the season award, but the right-back – who was often deployed as a right midfielder and shone brightest in the second half of the campaign – is UEFA.com's pick. Though he scored just four goals, he saved them for the most important games: one was an equaliser that prompted a Banants' victory and three more turned matches in the club's favour in the final run-in. The 23-year-old is quick, good with his head and has a sixth sense for being in the right place at the right time.

One to watch: Artur Toroyan (FC Banants)
With great positional sense, two good feet and superb reflexes, the 22-year-old goalkeeper was ever-present for Banants and conceded only 23 goals in 28 outings, keeping 14 clean sheets. Thanks to his confidence and composure, Banants boasted the meanest defence in the division. Toroyan's sparkling form forced experienced custodian Stepan Ghazaryan onto the bench, the latter leaving for Ararat in a quest for first-team football.

Surprise package: FC Ararat
While it did not end well for the White Eagles, a fourth-place finish represented a huge improvement on 2012/13 when Ararat came seventh. Their autumn campaign was an unquestionable triumph, with 30 points amassed from 14 games, and just seven goals shipped. At that stage they were eight points clear of defending champions Shirak at the summit. However, they would win only three matches after the winter recess, coach Abraham Khashmanyan being cast aside as they crashed out of the title reckoning.

Leading scorer: Mihran Mahasyan, Alashkert FC (17)

Relegated: Alashkert FC*

Promoted: TBC*

*Subject to final decision from Football Federation of Armenia (HFF); Alashkert may remain in the top division

Number: 1
Zsolt Hornyák and Banants each claimed their first titles – the coach in his 42nd year, Banants in their 22nd. Some achievement given the club had to make radical changes in the winter after several key players' loan deals expired.

Quote: "One of my eyes is smiling and the other is crying. For them both to smile we have to be good and win."
Banants boss Hornyák after his team created a hatful of chances but drew 2-2 draw with Pyunik in their fourth league game.

Last updated: 16/06/14 12.45CET

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