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Season review: Georgia

Published: Monday 20 June 2011, 17.30CET
FC Zestafoni ended the season with their first league title while FC Gagra enhanced promotion celebrations by becoming the first lower-league Georgian Cup winners.
by Vakhtang Bzikadze
from Tbilisi
Season review: Georgia
Shota Grigalashvili congratulates prolific Zestafoni striker Nikoloz Gelashvili ©Badri Ketiladze
Published: Monday 20 June 2011, 17.30CET

Season review: Georgia

FC Zestafoni ended the season with their first league title while FC Gagra enhanced promotion celebrations by becoming the first lower-league Georgian Cup winners.

The two main prizes in Georgian football went to clubs which were only founded in 2004. FC Zestafoni won the Georgian Cup in 2008, but topped that with league success this time around in the final season before the competition is expanded from ten teams to 12. Relegated from the top division last season, FC Gagra won promotion straight back as second-tier champions and took their first cup title too.

Champions: FC Zestafoni
It took just two seasons under coach Giorgi Geguchadze for Zestafoni to claim their first national title, though both the club and its boss had won the Georgian Cup before, Geguchadze doing so at FC Dinamo Tbilisi. A wobbly spell in the late autumn would see the club toppled from the top of the rankings, but they battled back, taking the crown with two games to spare following a 4-1 win against FC Samtredia. "I am really happy that we won medals which shows our true standard," said Geguchadze.

Cup final: FC Gagra 1-0 FC Torpedo Kutaisi (aet)
The dual lure of the cup and its accompanying UEFA Europa League place made for an intense final, but for all of their billing as pre-match favourites, two-time Georgian Cup winners Torpedo could not find a way past second-tier Gagra. An entertaining match reached its agonising conclusion deep into extra-time when Sevasti Todua put past his own keeper from a set piece. "I'm haven't quite taken in what we have achieved," said delirious Ukrainian coach Anatoliy Piskovets after his side were confirmed as the only side from outside the first division to win the cup.

European places
FC Zestafoni – UEFA Champions League first qualifying round
FC Gagra – UEFA Europa League second qualifying round
FC Dinamo Tbilisi – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
Metalurgi Rustavi – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round

Player of the year: Nikoloz Gelashvili (FC Zestafoni)
Zestafoni's Georgian international striker was the league's top scorer for the second time in his career, with his tally of 18 goals all the more impressive given that none of them were penalties. Now 25, he has scored 54 times in 90 league games over the last three seasons and is the hottest property in Georgian football at the moment.

One to watch: Mamuka Kobakhidze (FC Zestafoni)
Earmarked for stardom last year when he played in 12 league games, the 18-year-old central defender took another step up, cementing a place in Zestafoni's starting lineup by the end of the season, and making his first Under-21 international appearances. Also scored twice in the league; a reminder that Kobakhidze was a striker until he was 15.

Surprise package: FC Torpedo Kutaisi
Back in the top division after a three-year absence, Torpedo looked set for a short stay when a tally of just three points from their first seven games prompted the dismissal of coach Nestor Mumladze. However, new boss Gia Gigatadze was to take them to the Georgian Cup final and a fourth-placed finish, despite Torpedo scoring just 31 goals in the 36-game campaign.

Leading scorer: Nikoloz Gelashvili, FC Zestafoni (18)

Number: 13
The number of goals scored as a substitute by Zestafoni striker Rati Tsinamdzgvrishvili; hampered by injuries in recent seasons, the 23-year-old proved to be lethal in 24 games coming off the bench but did not score in his six starts.

Promoted: FC Gagra, FC Merani Tbilisi, FC Dila Gori

Relegated: FC Samtredia

"If my team end the season in the same place where we are now it will be an insult to the whole league."
FC Baia Zugdidi coach Elguja Kometiani complains that his financially-troubled side are overachieving when lying fourth in the table; they finished sixth.

Last updated: 08/07/11 16.48CET

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