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Season review: Georgia

Published: Wednesday 30 May 2012, 14.00CET
FC Zestafoni claimed the league title for the second year running but were denied a consecutive domestic double by FC Dila Gori, who lifted the Georgian Cup for the first time.
by Vakhtang Bzikadze
from Tblisi
Season review: Georgia
Zestafoni players celebrate another goal during a successful season ©Badri Ketiladze
Published: Wednesday 30 May 2012, 14.00CET

Season review: Georgia

FC Zestafoni claimed the league title for the second year running but were denied a consecutive domestic double by FC Dila Gori, who lifted the Georgian Cup for the first time.

FC Zestafoni claimed a second consecutive title but were pushed all the way in a dramatic duel with FC Metalurgi Rustavi, who ended level on points with the champions but were denied glory after winning fewer games. However, Zestafoni could not repeat last year's domestic double as they were comprehensively beaten in the cup final by top-flight debutants FC Dila Gori.

Champions: FC Zestafoni
Giorgi Chiabrishvili's first season as a coach ended triumphantly as he ensured Zestafoni became only the third club in history to retain the Georgian title. With the league being played under a new split format, Zestafoni suffered a dip in form in spring and it seemed momentum would take Metalurgi to the title. However, the two sides finished level on points and Zestafoni lifted the trophy due to their superior number of victories.

Cup final: FC Dila Gori 4-1 FC Zestafoni
Dila produced a huge shock, becoming only the second side in 19 years to score four goals in the showpiece event. The win rounded off a superb first season in the top flight as Dila also finished fifth in the final standings. Zestafoni had themselves to blame after taking an early lead, before Teimuraz Gongadze was dismissed to allow Gocha Khodzhava to level from the spot. Mate Vatsadze, Giorgi Iluridze and Aleksandr Intskirveli added second-half goals to make it a season to remember for Dila.

European places*
FC Zestafoni – UEFA Champions League, first qualifying round
FC Metalurgi Rustavi – UEFA Europa League, first qualifying round
FC Torpedo Kutaisi – UEFA Europa League, first qualifying round
FC Dila Gori – UEFA Europa League, second qualifying round

* Subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the year: Jaba Dvali (FC Zestafoni)
Dvali claimed the league's top-scorer mantle for the second time after hitting 20 goals for the champions. It is six years since he last topped the scoring charts, having struck 21 times in FC Sioni Bolnisi's title-winning campaign of 2006. Dvali ran one goal short of that haul this time, but after last season's top-scorer Nikoloz Gelashvili left in the winter, the forward took on the burden to fire his side to the title. 

One to watch: Jambul Jigauri (FC Dinamo Tbilisi)
Many young players made an impact including free-scoring Irakli Sikharulidze of Metalurgi and Nikolozi Sabanadze of Torpedo Kutaisi. However, as the prolific pair had intermittent spells of brilliance, Dinamo Tbilisi midfielder Jigauri was consistently outstanding. Excelling despite a turbulent year for the capital club, who saw three different coaches in charge throughout the season, the 19-year-old displayed enviable desire as a defensive midfielder and a willingness to get forward and score some important goals.

Surprise package: FC Merani Martvili
While Dila Gori obviously impressed, fellow top-flight debutants Merani Martvili also caught the eye, finishing eighth and ruffling a few feathers along the way. Indeed, two of the top four, Torpedo Kutaisi and Dinamo Tbilisi, were beaten by them.

Leading scorer: Jaba Dvali, FC Zestafoni (20)

Relegated: FC Spartaki Tskhinvali, FC Gagra

Promoted: FC Chikhura Sachkhere, FC Dinamo Batumi

Number: 8
Dinamo Tbilisi notched up some big numbers this season as they claimed their 500th win in the Georgian league and scored their 1,800th goal, but the number eight still stands out. It was the number of consecutive Dinamo draws after which Giorgi Devdariani resigned having spent ten weeks at the helm of the team without a single defeat.

"The season was very demanding and exhausting. I always say that it is difficult to win the title but even more to defend it. All the other teams were highly motivated against us. There are plenty of strong clubs in the league but we played like champions against all of them and proved that we were the strongest once again." Zestafoni coach Giorgi Chiabrishvili after winning his first title, and the club's second in a row.

Last updated: 10/07/12 14.23CET

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