Season review: FC Pyunik outclassed the rest as they claimed a fourth straight Armenian title.
By Khachik Chakhoyan
FC Pyunik proved a class above the rest as they cruised to their fourth successive Armenian Premier League title.
Pyunik won the league unbeaten in 2003, and they again avoided defeat until their penultimate match on 11 November when FC Kilikia claimed a 1-0 away win in a rearranged game. Still, their overall run of 59 league fixtures without losing, starting in October 2002, is the fourth best sequence on record in any European top flight.
Pyunik are 13 points above second-placed FC MIKA prior to the teams' season-closing encounter on 21 November. Pyunik strikers Galust Petrosyan and Edgar Manucharyan also share the lead in the scoring charts with 21 goals apiece.
Meanwhile, MIKA have secured the best finish in their history, helped by pre-season signing Armen Shahgeldyan. His effort in the 1-0 home win against FC Dinamo-Zenit Yerevan on 7 November clinched second place and took his personal tally to 13.
Banants in third
FC Banants ended up in the top three for the third year running. However, they fell a place from their second position in 2003. Banants, who lost the Armenian Cup final to Pyunik on penalties in May, clinched third in their penultimate game, drawing 1-1 at home to nearest rivals FC Ararat Yerevan on 7 November.
Nonetheless, Ararat can consider their season a success having been banned from the 2003 championship for stopping their players travelling with the national side to Israel for security reasons. Ararat absorbed FC Lernagorts prior to this campaign and quickly proved themselves a threat once more.
Dinamo-Zenit started well but a financial crisis sparked a decline in the second half of the season and they finished only six points clear of the drop. Kilikia had high hopes, but avoiding relegation became the aim and Samvel Darbinyan, the last of six coaches this term, finally kept them up with a fine late run of form. They defeated Banants, FC Shirak and Dinamo-Zenit, and held Pyunik before then claiming a dramatic win against the champions.
In the end, FC Kotayk and Shirak went head to head in the final full programme of fixtures on 7 November in what amounted to a relegation play-off. And it was Kotayk who prevailed 3-1 to condemn the three-time champions who never recovered from the earlier sale of a number of key players.