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Season review: Albania

Published: Thursday 5 June 2014, 11.30CET
"It was a tough season," said KS Skënderbeu's Pero Pejić after his side finished top in Albania once more, but it was harder still for FK Kukësi, runners-up in both league and cup.
by Fatjon Pandovski
Season review: Albania
Skënderbeu rejoice after their 2013/14 title success ©Foto Xhimi
Published: Thursday 5 June 2014, 11.30CET

Season review: Albania

"It was a tough season," said KS Skënderbeu's Pero Pejić after his side finished top in Albania once more, but it was harder still for FK Kukësi, runners-up in both league and cup.

KS Skënderbeu won their fourth straight Super League title while FK Kukësi were left deflated on two fronts, finishing as runners-up for the second season running and also losing the Albanian Cup final.

Champions: KS Skënderbeu
Having steered the Korce side to the championship last time around, coach Mirel Josa came up trumps again, with the only minor disappointment a sag towards the end of the campaign; Skënderbeu lost five of their last eight games, stumbling across the line with a 3-3 home draw against Kukësi. They had led that match 3-0, with a goal from Andi Ribaj and two from Super League top scorer Pero Pejić. "It was a tough season," the 31-year-old Croatian forward concluded. "I was glad to help the team win." Skënderbeu's fifth Albanian title was Pejić's third – he triumphed with KS Dinamo Tirana in 2007/08 before his back-to-back successes with his current club.


Flamurtari after their cup success

Cup final: KS Flamurtari 1-0 KS Kukësi
Kukës ended the season four points adrift of the champions, and were to be runners-up in the Albanian Cup too, Flamurtari midfielder Arbër Abilaliaj scoring at the second attempt on 44 minutes after Argjend Halilaj had saved his first shot. It brought a fourth Albanian Cup for the team from the port town of Vlore. "It's a thrill for the squad and our supporters," said captain Franc Veliu. Midfielder Gilman Lika added: "I came here to get this team into Europe and we did it. I am very happy."

European Places
KS Skënderbeu – UEFA Champions League second qualifying round
KS Flamurtari – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
FK Kukësi – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
KF Laçi – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round

*subject to final confirmation from UEFA 

Player of the year: Daniel Xhafaj (KS Teuta)
At 37, Xhafaj remains perhaps the most reliable goalscorer in Albanian football, with his 18th season yielding 14 Super League strikes for fourth-placed Teuta. He was duly chosen as player of the year by the Football Association of Albania (FShF), and it is a measure of his consistency that he has reached double figures in the last six campaigns – for five different clubs: KF Tirana (10 goals, 2008/09), KS Besa (18, 2009/10), Flamurtari (19, 2010/11),  Skënderbeu (11, 2011/12), Teuta (10, 2012/13 and 14, 2013/14).

One to watch: Lorenc Trashi (KS Lushnja)
"I love scoring goals and will make sure I continue to do so for whichever club I play for," said the 22-year-old Trashi, who could follow in Xhafaj's footsteps after a fine first term. The forward netted the opening-day winner against Kukës on his league debut and ended up with six goals from 27 games despite Lushnja being relegated. A steady performer, he is being tracked with interest by all of Albania's top clubs this summer. Kudos also goes to Kukës's 23-year-old Sokol Cikalleshi, whose 17 top-flight strikes earned him an international call-up.

Surprise package: KS Flamurtari
Ordered to reduce their wage bill by more than 50% and deducted three points, Flamurtari's Super League campaign was a disappointing one – they came seventh, a fairly perilous position in a season in which four of the division's 12 teams were relegated. However, they put their problems to one side as they beat favourites Kukës in the cup final. "We overcame every hurdle over the course of the year and proved many people wrong," said coach Ernest Gjoka with evident satisfaction. "We showed character and determination, and that's what our team is about."

Leading scorer: Pero Pejić, KS Skënderbeu (20)

Relegated: KS Besa, KS Lushnja, KS Kastrioti, KS Bylis

Promoted: KS Elbasani, KF Apolonia

Number: 504
Skënderbeu goalkeeper Orges Shehi played 32 matches in 2013/14 to break through the 500 barrier in terms of league appearances. The 36-year-old currently has 504 to his name.

Quote: "I don't know how he does it. I just know he is always ready to play and is amazing. He has done this for almost 20 years and he could do it for more."
Skënderbeu coach Josa gives No1 Shehi his due

Last updated: 05/06/14 14.06CET

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