By Erkin Ibragimov
The 2004/05 season was perhaps the most dramatic in the short history of post-Soviet football in Azerbaijan.
It began with a flurry of activity as three newly-formed sides - FK Khazar Lenkoran, FK Karvan Evlakh and MTK Araz Imishli - were admitted to the league while several others changed their name. FK Dinamo Baku became FK Baku, FK Kapaz morphed into FK Ganja while FK Khazar Universiteti became FC Inter Baku.
Midway through the season, there was a further seismic change as FK Shafa were dissolved due to bankruptcy. The team, who had been formed under an initiative by the Association of Football Federations of Azerbaijan in 1998 and won the 2001 Azerbaijani Cup, had produced many fine players.
Their demise prompted a number of mid-campaign transfer moves with Sadyg Aliyev joining FK Karat Baku, Namig Yusifov moving to Araz, Rashad Muradov and Natig Hasimov signing for FK Adliyya, Roman Nasibov switching to Baku and 18-year-old Nakim Veliev departing for Moldova's CSF Zimbru Chisinau.
However, it had little bearing on the title race as, with five games to go, PFC Neftchi, Baku, Karvan, Inter, Araz and PFK Turan Tovuz were all hopeful of a top-three finish. As it happened, the season ended with a single golden match on 10 June as Neftchi and Khazar Lenkoran finished level on points.
In this most unpredictable of campaigns, that match at least went to form with Neftchi winning 2-1. Alim Gurbanov opened the scoring for Lenkoran before the break but goals from Ruslan Abbasov and Zaur Tagizade settled the tie, leaving coach Agasalim Mirdzavadov to collect the title.
Mirdzavadov had replaced Kazbek Tuaev earlier in the season and proved his worth as Neftchi performed well in the Commonwealth Cup in January and pulled off an impressive signing in Georgian Georgi Adamia, who proved to be a vital element in his side.
All the top-flight teams bar Ganja, Inter, Turan, FK Karabakh and Karvan changed their coach at least once during the campaign while Karvan's Zaur Ramazanov finished as top scorer with 21 goals - two years after he won the golden shoe in the Azeri Futsal league with Tribut.
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