Europe: 2010-11 Domestic League and Cup Review – Part 1 (+video)
It’s been a long hard season in the top domestic leagues across Europe and Stoppage Time – International Football Blog looks across the continent to review another exciting year for European league football. In the first of three parts we look at the winners and losers from Albania to France.
Skënderbeu Korçë claimed only their second ever Albanian championship crown having seen off the challenge of Flamurtari Vlorë, winning the title with a seven point margin. Their reward for capturing the title is a tilt at the UEFA Champions League next season whilst Flamurtari Vlorë and Vllaznia Shkodër qualify for the UEFA Europa League along with Albanian Cup winners KF Tirana who won the trophy for the 14th time following a penalty shoot-out win over neighbours Dinamo Tirana. KS Elbanasi and Beja Kavajë drop into the second division next season.
FC Santa Coloma won their second consecutive championship, their 6th overall, by pipping nearest challengers UE Sant Julià by a four point margin in a tightly fought contest. UE Sant Julià got some consolation by getting their hands on the Andorran Cup for the third time following a 3-1 win over UE Santa Coloma (not to be confused with champions FC Santa Coloma). The cup finalists and FC Lusitanos will compete in the UEFA Europa League next season whilst FC Encamp and CE Benfica go through the trapdoor having finished in the bottom two places.
Sturm Graz ensured that the recent domination of the Austrian Bundesliga by Red Bull Salzburg came to a premature end by beating the back-to-back champions of the last two seasons to the title by three points. This was Sturm’s first title in just over a decade and their third overall and will see them into next season’s UEFA Champions League. Red Bull Salzburg and Austria Vienna will feature in the UEFA Europa League along with Austrian Cup winners SV Ried whose 2-0 win over Austria Lustenau saw them clinch only their second cup triumph. With only one team going down into the second division that unfortunate position fell upon bottom club LASK Linz.
WATCH AUSTRIAN CUP FINAL HIGHLIGHTS HERE:
Neftchi Baku won their sixth title by seven points from arch-rivals Khazar Lankaran who, in turn, had the pleasure of claiming the Azerbaijan Cup with a penalty shoot-out victory over deposed league champions Inter Baku following a 1-1 draw. Khazar Lankaran will play in the UEFA Europa League in 2011-12 along with FK Qarabağ and AZAL Baku whilst at the bottom end of the table Simurq PFC and MOIK Baku see themselves relegated into the second tier.
In contrast to last season, the 2010-11 Jupiler League saw an exciting finish with only goal difference separating eventual champions Racing Genk from unlucky runners-up Standard Liège. RSC Anderlecht topped the table after the regular season but faded in the Championship Play-Off group allowing Genk and Standard, Belgium’s representatives for the 2011-12 UEFA Champions League, to overtake them in the final straight. Genk claimed their 3rd league title whilst Standard had to settle for their 6th Belgian Cup win following a 2-0 win over Westerlo. The losing cup finalists will play in the Europa League along with Anderlecht and Club Brugge. Charleroi and KAS Eupen are the two clubs who will go down into the Eerste Divisie next season.
Borac Banja Luka finally won their maiden league title this season with a seven point gap separating them from nearest challengers FK Sarajevo. Željezničar finished the season in third place and won the Bosnia-Herzegovina Cup following a two-legged aggregate 4-0 score against NK Čelik Zenica and will join FK Sarajevo and 4th place Široki Brijeg in the Europa League. FK Budućnost Banovići and Drina Zvornik fall through the cellar door into the second division next season.
SEE BORAC BANJA LUKA SECURE THE TITLE AGAINST ZELJEZNICAR HERE:
Litex Lovech are back-to-back champions in Bulgaria’s A PFG League, claiming a fourth title overall, having held off the challenge of Levski Sofia. For Litex player Svetoslav Todorov it was especially sweet as he has been involved in each of his side’s four league triumphs. CSKA Sofia won the Bulgarian Cup for the 11th time with a 1-0 win over Slavia Sofia thanks to a Spas Delev goal just six minutes before half-time. They will join Levski and Lokomotiv Sofia in the Europa League whilst, at the bottom end of the table, OFC Sliven and Akademik Sofia are relegated – VR Sevlievo may join them depending on the result of their play-off match on June 12th.
Dinamo Zagreb‘s continued dominance of the Croatian Prva Liga meant a sixth straight title success for the country’s most successful club. Their 13th post-independence league title was won at a canter with a 17 point gap over arch-rivals Hajduk Split. They secured the double following an easy Croatian Cup win over six-time losing finalists NK Varaždin who they disposed off with an 8-2 aggregate victory over two legs. Hajduk, RNK Split and Varaždin qualify for Europa League football but it’s a different story for Hrvatski Dragovljac, Istra 1961 and Lokomotiva Zagreb who all drop into the second division next season.
Record champions APOEL Nicosia won a 21st title, their second in three years, thanks in no small part to defeating nearest challengers Omonia Nicosia three times during the season, helping to establish an overall margin of eleven points at the season’s end. Omonia consoled themselves with a 13th win in the Cypriot Cup but had to do it the hard way with a 1-1 draw leading to a penalty shoot-out. Omonia, Anorthosis Famagusta and AEK Larnaca are in the Europa League next season but AEP Paphos are the sole club to experience the pain of relegation having finished bottom just three points behind Ermis Aradippou.
Viktoria Plzeň scraped their way to a maiden Gambrinus Liga title by just a single point having been made to work hard for their title by nearest rivals Sparta Prague. The champions only lost three games all season but Sparta’s superior number of wins, 22 to Viktoria’s 21, still counted for nothing as the title was decided on the final day. Sparta Prague, along with Jablonec and Mlada Boleslav, must be content with Europa League football in 2011-12 with the latter celebrating their maiden Czech Cup victory having beaten Sigma Olomouc in a penalty shoot-out following a 1-1 draw. FK Ústí nad Labem and Zbrojovka Brno, having finished in the bottom two, are the teams who will go down into the second division next season.
SEE VIKTORIA PLZEN’S TITLE CELEBRATIONS HERE:
The most dominant championship winning team in the whole of Europe this season were undoubtedly FC København. The defending champions lost only two matches all season as they walked to a 9th Superliga title, getting the better of second place Odense Boldklub by a massive 26 points. At least “OB” have the consolation of joining the champions in next season’s Champions League qualifying rounds. The Danish Cup final was a repeat of the previous year with FC Nordsjælland defeating opponents FC Midtjylland once again, Søren Christensen’s stoppage time goal sealing a thrilling 3-2 win. Both cup finalists will join Brøndby IF in the Europa League whilst Esbjerg fB and Randers FC face demotion to the second league.
Lille OSC pulled off a remarkable double triumph this season securing their first wins in both league and cup for the first time in over fifty years. Their first title since 1954 came courtesy of an eight point margin of victory over runners up Olympique Marseille who at least had the consolation of winning a second successive League Cup final by defeating Montpellier HSC 1-0 in the final. Lille’s double triumph comes complete with a first French Cup victory since 1955 after beating Paris Saint Germain 1-0 with a late Ludovic Obraniak goal sealing a sixth triumph in this competition. Lille, Marseille and Olympique Lyonnais have the Champions League places while Paris SG, Sochaux and Rennes make-do with the Europa League spots. At the bottom end the biggest shock was seeing seven-times French champions AS Monaco face up to the anguish of relegation and they will join Arles-Avignon and Racing Lens in Ligue 2 next season.
SEE LILLE’S WINNING GOAL IN THE FRENCH CUP FINAL HERE: