Europe: 2011-12 Season Review – Part 1
It is traditional at this time of year for Stoppage Time – International Football Blog to review those leagues that have finished and this year is no exception. In the first of four parts we look at ten of Europe’s top flight championships ranging from Albania to Denmark.
Skënderbeu Korçë claimed back-to-back Albanian championships having seen off the challenge of Teuta Durrës, winning the title by a single point. The club came close to winning the double but lost out in the Albanian Cup final to KF Tirana who won the trophy for the 15th time following a single goal victory over the league champions. Pogradeci and Dinamo Tirana finished in the bottom two places and will drop into the second division next season.
FC Lusitanos won their maiden championship by pipping nearest challengers FC Santa Coloma by a two point margin in a tightly fought contest. FC Santa Coloma did get some consolation by defeating the champions 2-0 in the Andorran Cup final to win the trophy for the ninth time in the club’s history. FC Ranger’s finished the season rock bottom with just four points accumulated from twenty games and will, thus, suffer relegation but Inter Club d’Escaldes held on to their top flight spot by defeating UE Extremenya in a two-legged play-off.
Red Bull Salzburg is back on top in the Austrian Bundesliga. Having lost out to Sturm Graz last season, Red Bull saw off the challenge of Rapid Wien to win their third title in four years by six points. The champions also managed to put the Austrian Cup in the trophy cabinet having easily seen off the challenge of defending title holders SV Ried 3-0 in the final. With only one team going down into the second division that unfortunate position fell upon bottom club Kampfenberger SV.
Neftchi Baku won their seventh title by four points from arch-rivals Khazar Lankaran as the club’s dominance in the league shows no signs of wilting just yet. However they were unable to make it a double as they lost out to local rivals FC Baku in the Azerbaijan Cup final, going down to a 2-0 defeat. Despite finishing in the bottom two of the league table, FK Sumgayit and Turan Tovuz have been spared from the drop as the Azerbaijan FA decided in April that no teams will be promoted from the second division this season.
RSC Anderlecht are back on top in Belgium having won the league title for the 31st time in the club’s illustrious history. Their latest triumph came at the hands of eternal rivals Club Brugge having topped the table by four points after the Championship round of games had been completed. In the Belgian Cup final a single strike from Hamdi Harbaoui gave KSC Lokeren a 1-0 win over KV Kortrijk to win the trophy for the first time ever. Westerlo and St Truiden are the two clubs who will go down into the Eerste Divisie next season and will be replaced by Charleroi and Waasland Beveren.
Željezničar finished the season as league champions for the fifth time having got the better of nearest challengers Široki Brijeg with an eight point margin. The champions also defeated Široki Brijeg in the final of the Bosnia-Herzegovina Cup with a single goal from Muamer Svraka separating the two teams in the two-legged final. FK Sloboda Tuzla and FK Kozara Gradiška fall through the cellar door into the second division next season.
There was a surprise champion in the Bulgarian “A PFG” this season with Ludogorets Razgrad claiming a maiden title having held off the challenge of Sofia giants CSKA with just a solitary point dividing the two teams at the top of the table. If the league title wasn’t remarkable enough then success in the Bulgarian Cup made it a sweet double after getting the better of Lokomotiv Plovdiv with a 2-1 victory also handing them a maiden triumph in this competition. At the bottom end of the table Videma Rakovski Sevlievo, Kalikara Kavarna and PFC Svetkavitsa all go down in to the “B PFG” next season.
Dinamo Zagreb‘s continued dominance of the Croatian Prva Liga meant a seventh straight title success for the country’s most successful club. Their 14th post-independence league title was won at a canter with a 21 point gap separating them from arch-rivals Hajduk Split. They also secured yet another double getting the better of NK Osijek in the Croatian Cup final with a 3-1 aggregate victory over two legs. With only twelve teams playing in the Prva HNL next season five teams – HNK Rijeka, NK Lučko Zagreb, HNK Šibenik, NK Karlovac and NK Varaždin – must all drop into the second division next season with NK Dugopolje coming up on their won from the second division.
AEL Limassol finally won their sixth league title, their first since 1968, by holding off the challenges of both Nicosia clubs APOEL and Omonia with the margin between the champions and the capital clubs being a mere two points. Omonia Nicosia at least savoured some consolation in the Cypriot Cup final which they won for the 14th time thanks to Andre Alves’ lone strike in a 1-0 win over the league champions. Ermis Aradippou and Anagennisi Dherynia went straight down in to the second division next season whilst Aris Limassol joined them later having finished bottom of a relegation play-off mini-group..
Slovan Liberec won the Gambrinus Liga by just two points having been made to work hard for their title by nearest rivals Sparta Prague. For Slovan it was their third league title and a first since 2005-06. There was to be further disappointment for Sparta Prague in the Czech Cup with Sigma Olomouc defeating the Czech Republic’s most decorated club in the final thanks to Michal Veprek’s goal in the 46th minute. Bohemians 1905 and Viktoria Žižkov, having finished in the bottom two, are the teams who will go down into the second division next season.
One of the most dramatic title wins in European football came in Denmark this year. FC Nordsjælland, Danish Cup winners over the past two seasons, finally managed to add the Superliga title to the trophy cabinet. Having overtaken defending champions FC København in the penultimate round of games, FC Nordsjælland won their final game of the season 3-0 at home to AC Horsens to win their first ever league title. FC København didn’t finish the season empty-handed, however, going on to win the Danish Cup for the fifth time with a 1-0 win over AC Horsens. Odense Boldklub, second in the league last season, only avoided relegation this season finishing six points and one place above the drop zone. Lyngby BK and HB Køge face demotion to the second league next season.