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Season review: Iceland

Published: Tuesday 28 October 2014, 9.11CET
Not content with battling their way through to the UEFA Europa League play-offs on their continental debut, unfancied Stjarnan ended the campaign with a first league title.
by Stefán Stefánsson
from Reykjavik
Season review: Iceland
Stjarnan after winning their first Icelandic title ©Egill&Bjarni

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Published: Tuesday 28 October 2014, 9.11CET

Season review: Iceland

Not content with battling their way through to the UEFA Europa League play-offs on their continental debut, unfancied Stjarnan ended the campaign with a first league title.

Having made heroic progress in the UEFA Europa League, Stjarnan took their first national title, scoring a penalty at the death to settle a last-day decider against FH Hafnarfjördur.

Champions: Stjarnan
"Our goal for the season was to win the cup, finish in the top three and win our first qualifying round tie in the UEFA Europa League," said Stjarnan coach Rúnar Már Sigmundsson. Elimination in the last 16 in the cup was a little disappointing in that respect, but it was pretty much the only low point of the Gardabaer club's campaign.

Unbeaten in the league all season, they secured their first title on the final day with a 2-1 win against title rivals FH, Ólafur Karl Finsen scoring the added-time winner from the spot after captain Veigar Páll Gunnarsson had been sent off. "I still can't believe what happened this summer," added Sigmundsson. "It is amazing not to lose a single league game and it is even more amazing how we did in our maiden European campaign."

Cup final: KR Reykjavík 2-1 Keflavík
"We did it the hard way in the cup as usual, but we managed to go all the way," KR chairman Kristinn Kjærnested said, his side having battled past Fjölnir, Breidablik, ÍBV Vestmannæyjar and finally Keflavík to get the trophy.

Tipped to defend their title, being forced to play key home games away from their west Reykjavik base in the spring due to pitch problems may have unsettled them. "It is not an excuse, but it was not good to play the first home games away," noted Kjærnested, whose side finished third in the table. "A cup is a cup, but we always want the big one."

European places*
Stjarnan – UEFA Champions League second qualifying round
FH Hafnarfjördur – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
KR Reykjavík – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
Víkingur – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round

*Subject to final comformation from UEFA

©AFP/Getty Images

Ingvar Jónsson faces Inter

Player of the year: Ingvar Jónsson (Stjarnan)
Having improved gradually since arriving from lower-division Njardvík four years ago, goalkeeper Jónsson underpinned Stjarnan's title success and his performances earned the 25-year-old a call-up to the senior Iceland squad. "It has always been the goal to get into the national team. I am very happy to have a chance to be part of a great unit which is going places," he explained.

One to watch: Elías Már Ómarsson (Keflavík)
Midfielder-cum-striker Ómarsson, 19, scored the first of six goals this season in the opening round and graduated to the national Under-21 team in the summer after performing at U17 and U19 levels. "That gave me more confidence which helped in the league," he explained. He is now exploring new avenues, having gone on trial with Norwegian side Vålerenga Fotball. "Playing professionally has always been my plan," Ómarsson explained. "I think I am ready for it."

Surprise package: Víkingur Reykjavík
Predicted not to survive their first campaign back in the top division in a customary pre-season poll of league coaches and captains, Víkingur exceeded expectations by earning a UEFA Europa League place, finishing fourth despite losing their last four games. "If our squad had been a bit bigger we would have done even better," said coach Ólafur Thórdarson, who took inspiration from the gloomy predictions of his peers. He lost three players when they had to head abroad to continue their education.

Leading scorer: Gary Martin, KR Reykjavík (13)

Relegated: Thór Akureyri, Fram Reykjavík

©Eva Björk

Stjarnan celebrate their defeat of Motherwell

Promoted: Leiknir Reykjavík, ÍA Akranes

Number: 8
Stjarnan's eight-game UEFA Europa League campaign was only ended by FC Internazionale Milano (9-0agg), the first-timers having eliminated Bangor City FC (8-0agg), Motherwell FC (5-4agg) and KKS Lech Poznań (1-0agg) to reach the play-offs. "I am so proud," goalkeeper Jónsson said. "At the start of the season I felt we might have set the bar a little too high since we had lost some key players, but the younger guys were up to the task. I think the Europa League games inspired us rather than tiring us out."

Quote
"How are the nerves when I walked up to the penalty spot? The blood was pumping. I loved it."
Ólafur Karl Finsen on taking the added-time penalty against FH that won the title for Stjarnan

Last updated: 17/11/14 12.43CET

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