Summer Leagues: End of Season Review
While many of Europe’s top leagues are in the middle of an arduous campaign there are some championships that have just been decided for the 2010 season. These summer leagues are highlighted here in Stoppage Time – International Football Blog‘s review of the season:
ARMENIA: Pyunik Yerevan finally secured their tenth successive championship on the final day of the season as they were taken all the way by local rivals Banants with the champions coming out on top by a single point. The two teams were also invoved in the Armenian cup final in May which Pyunik won 4-0 which secured the club’s fifth win in the competition. UEFA Europa League places went to Banants Yerevan and Ulisses Yerevan whilst FC Shirak Gyumri were relegated having only accumulated ten points in the whole campaign.
BELARUS: BATE Borisov kept up their domestic dominance by winning a fifth consecutive league championship. Having already won their second national cup triumph with a 5-0 win over Torpedo Zhodino in May, the club were challenged by Shakhtar Soligorsk up until the last few weeks of the league season. BATE go into next season’s Champions League, Soligorsk and FC Minsk qualified for the UEFA Europa League. Partizan Minsk go down to the 2nd League next season whilst Torpedo Zhodino won a two-legged play-off against 1. League team SKVICH Minsk to retain their top-flight status.
ESTONIA: It was a classic race for the title between the nation’s two powerhouse teams of FC Levadia, champions for the previous four years, and FC Flora who eventually claimed their first Meistriliiga title since 2003 by a margin of five points. Levadia at least had the consolation of winning their sixth Estonian Cup in May having defeated their arch-rivals Flora in the final with a convincing 3-0 victory. FC Trans Narva qualify for the UEFA Europa League whilst, at the bottom of the standings, FC Lootus Kohtla-Järve automatically drop down to the 2. League and are replaced by Lasnamäe FC Ajax. FC Kuressaare retain their place in the top flight having defeated Kiviõli Tamme Auto 4-2 in a two-legged promotion/relegation play-off.
FAROE ISLANDS: HB Tórshavn had it tough in defending their title but were made to work by a determined EB/Streymur side. HB won the championship by three points whilst EB/Streymur had the consolation of winning the national cup in August when narrowly beating ÍF Fuglafjørður by a goal to nil. Joining EB in the UEFA Europa League will be NSÍ Runavík and ÍF Fuglafjørður. Unfortunately the cellar door opens for FC Suðuroy and AB Argir, both of whom are relegated.
FINLAND: HJK Helsinki won the Finnish Veikkausliiga with weeks to spare as they eased their way to a record extending 23rd national championship and a place in next season’s UEFA Champions League qualifying rounds after beating KuPS Kuopio. They were denied the double, however, after TPS Turku beat them to cup honours with a 2-0 win in the final played in September. KuPS and TPS are joined in the Europa League by FC Honka Espoo but, sadly for FC Lahti, they are relegated. JJV Jyväskylä won a two-legged play-off with First Division side FC Viikingit by three goals to one to secure their place in the top flight for 2011.
ICELAND: Breiðablik won their maiden national championship this season after narrowly pipping outgoing champions FH to the title by virtue of goal difference. FH did win the Icelandic Cup after strolling to a 4-0 win over KR Reykjavik. ÍBV Vestmannaeyja and KR Reykjavik will enjoy UEFA Europa League action next season whilst Haukur and UMF Selfoss are relegated.
LATVIA: Skonto Riga won a closely fought Virslīga title after pipping FK Ventspils and, thus, winning their 15th championship, their first in six years. In an exciting 2009-10 Latvian Cup competition FK Jelgava won their way through every round on penalties in order to emerge victorious. They defeated FK Jūrmala-VV in the final and sealed a fourth triumph in the competition. Liepājas Metalurgs will join FK Ventspils in the UEFA Europa League whilst FK Jaunība and FC Tranzit Ventspils are relegated to be replaced by FB Gulbene-2005 and FC Jūrmala.
LITHUANIA: FK Ekranas won their third successive A-Lyga title having beaten nearest challengers FK Sūduva by a seven point margin. This title win meant that it was another double triumph for Ekranas who were also victorious in May’s Cup final when beating FK Vetra Vilnius 2-1. FK Vetra had a miserable year after having all of their results annulled due to financial irregularites and were relegated. On a happier note FK Sūduva and FK Žalgiris Vilnius qualified for the 2010-11 UEFA Europa League.
NORWAY: Rosenborg Trondheim celebrated their 22nd Tippaligaen title winning the league wth two matches to spare. They sealed their championship by seven points from second place Vålerenga. Strømsgodset IF were successful in the Norwegian Cup final beating 2nd tier side FK Follo 2-0, thus sealing their fifth cup title. Strømsgodset IF qualify for the UEFA Europa League along with Vålerenga and Tromsø IL. Sandefjord and Kongsvinger are relegated whilst Hønefoss BK won/lost a play-off match to Fredrikstad which kept them up/saw them relegated.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: The Airtricity League run-in was a close run thing between the top two teams Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians with the former coming out on top over the latter by virtue of goal difference. Both teams had swapped places a couple of times in the last few weeks of the season but it was Shamrock Rovers who held out with just two goals separating them from their title challengers. Shamrock Rovers enjoy a first league title since 1993-94 but were unable to make it a double triumph, losing to Sligo Rovers on penalties in the FAI Cup final. Bohemians, Sligo Rovers and Sporting Fingal seal the UEFA Europa League places but at the bottom Drogheda United landed the wooden spoon and are relegated whilst Bray Wanderers stayed up by virtue of a penalty shoot-out win over 2nd tier side Monaghan United in a play-off.
RUSSIA: Zenit Saint Petersburg won their second Russian Premier League title in four years having dominated the top spot from Matchday 9 until the end of the campaign. Coach Luciano Spalletti, in his first season at the club, also celebrated a fantastic 2009-10 Russian Cup victory against Sibir Novosibirsk with Roman Shirokov on the score sheet in Zenit’s 1-0 win. Rubin Kazan and CSKA Moscow finished in the two UEFA Champions League places whilst capital clubs Spartak and Lokomotive had to settle for the UEFA Europa League along with Sibir. In a mixed season for Sibir they were also relegated after finishing bottom of the table and will be joined in the First Division by Alania Vladikavkaz.
SWEDEN: The Allsvenskan championship race went to the wire with Malmö FF clinching their 16th championship by holding off the challenge of Helsingborgs IF who they pipped to the title by two points. Malmö FF qualify for the UEFA Champions League Helsingborgs IF must contend themselves with UEFA Europa League football along with Örebro SK and Hammerby whose involvement in the Svenska Cupen final against Helsingborgs IF ensured their qualification regardless of the result. IF Brommapojkarna and Åtvidabergs FF drop down into the second tier whilst Gefle IF survive for another season in the top flight after winning a two-legged play-off against second tier GIF Sundsvall.