Monthly review: A 13th straight victory has left FC Pyunik close to another Armenian title.
By Khachik Chakhoyan
A 13th straight victory has left six-times Armenian champions FC Pyunik close to another title as they hold a 14-point lead over nearest challengers FC MIKA.
MIKA are Pyunik's only real rivals, yet they have proved incapable of inflicting any damage on them in their Premier League meetings - Pyunik winning two and drawing one of three encounters so far. In fact, the Yerevan club have not met any serious resistance and their unbeaten run now stretches to 54 games over more than two years.
At the start of the season, MIKA were showing their quality and looked like genuine contenders. However, after a 3-0 defeat by Pyunik in August, that momentum has waned and they have won just two and lost one of their last five matches. Frustratingly, their worst performances have come against struggling sides - a 1-0 home defeat by FC Shirak and 1-1 draws with FC Kotayk and FC Kilikia.
Belatedly, FC Banants have found their form with young forward Samvel Melkonyan impressing. After scoring his first league goal in July, he has added seven more in the last four games. This has allowed Banants to win three consecutive matches, including against FC Ararat Yerevan, their main rivals for third position. Their advantage over the latter, who are one place behind in fourth, now stands at four points.
Elsewhere, FC Dinamo-Zenit Yerevan have struggled against a backdrop of financial uncertainty, culminating in heavy defeats by Pyunik and Banants that yielded a 9-1 aggregate scoreline. Consequently, a club which had the potential to aim for the top now lies in mid-table with no hope of improvement.
Meanwhile, FC Shirak's run of three victories ended with a 3-0 defeat by Ararat. Kotayk won the battle of the teams directly below Shirak, beating Kilikia 2-0 at home to extend the gap between them and the bottom side to four points. That result was a disappointment to Kilikia's sixth coach of the season, new man Samvel Darbinyan. His debut, the previous week, had seen a 1-1 draw with MIKA, but with six games remaining, survival might well be beyond him and his charges.