FC Pyunik president Karen Arutyunyan said coach Vardan Minasyan was "not only a great teacher, but a great psychologist as well" after he led the club to an eighth successive title with a play-off victory against FC Ararat Yerevan.
Hired to replace Armen Gyulbudagyants after a shaky start to the campaign, Minasyan's side were beaten 3-0 on aggregate by Anorthosis Famagusta FC in UEFA Champions League qualifying before dragging themselves back into the title race. Pyunik drew level on points with Ararat after the final scheduled game of the season, and then beat them 2-1 in added time in a specially-arranged title decider. "Ararat were not only league leaders, but they also played the best football in the country and won the Armenian Cup," said Minasyan, 34. Ararat looked to be in a class of their own at times, although FC Gandzasar Kapan, FC MIKA and FC Banants all harboured title hopes at various times.
"In the middle of the season everybody dropped points," added Minsayan, who returned to club football following a spell with the national team. "We were able to reduce the deficit, although I was still pretty sure Ararat would win the title." The fact that Pyunik denied them stands as testament to Minsyan's skills as a coach and a motivator. After the final whistle in the golden game on 19 November, club president Arutyunyan said of the former Pyunik midfielder: "I was right about this group of players and about Minasyan as a head coach. He was not only a great teacher, but a great psychologist as well. He is a true professional who has reached the heights in his own very special way."
Pyunik's success was founded upon an indomitable spirit and a successful youth policy. Aside from Sargis Hovsepyan and Karen Dokhoyan, all of their players were aged between 18 and 20. "Many of our players were in the national youth and U21 teams," said Minasyan. "We even had four players selected for the senior team. This experience helped them to grow." Right-back Hovsepyan, meanwhile, underlined the culture of endeavour that prevailed among his team-mates. "Every club has it's own footballing philosophy," the 36-year-old said. "We value the relationships between people. We always stayed united and believed in ourselves.
Our fighting spirit helped us to win games where our opponents outplayed us."
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