Europe: 2011-12 Season Review – Part 2
In the second part of Stoppage Time’s 2011-12 Season Review we take a look at how the season finished from England to Macedonia.
Manchester City captured their first league championship for 44 years in dramatic fashion. Roberto Mancini’s side turned around a 2-1 deficit at home to Queen’s Park Rangers in stoppage time to win the game 3-2 and thus seal only the club’s third ever league title on goal difference from arch rivals Manchester United. Chelsea FC, struggling under Andre Villas-Boas in the first half of the season, came back much stronger under interim coach Roberto di Matteo after the former was sacked. The Stamford Bridge club not only claimed their sixth FA Cup title, beating Liverpool FC 2-1 in the final, they also sealed European success by defeating FC Bayern München in the final of the UEFA Champions League. Liverpool FC struggled in the Premier League but reached two cup finals, losing to Chelsea in the FA Cup but winning a first trophy in six years when defeating Cardiff City to lift the League Cup. At the bottom Wolverhampton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers and Bolton Wanderers have to drop into the second tier and will be replaced by Reading FC, Southampton FC and West Ham United.
Montpellier HSC pulled off a remarkable league triumph this season securing their first ever title with a three point margin separating them from Paris Saint Germain. Olympique Lyonnais reached both domestic cup finals but had mixed success. They won the French Cup for the fifth time after a 1-0 win over US Quevilly but they lost out to Olympique Marseille in the League Cup final, going down by the same score line and which helped ensure that OM won the trophy for the third consecutive season. At the bottom end of the table the biggest casualty was AJ Auxerre who must face up to the anguish of relegation after a 30 year spell in the top flight. They will be joined by Caen and Dijon in Ligue 2 next season.
FC Zestaponi are celebrating back-to-back wins in the Umaglesi Liga but it was a close championship race which was decided by goal difference and which saw Metallurgi Rustavi finish as runners up in such unfortunate fashion. Georgian Cup winners FC Dila Gori denied the league champions in the cup final defeating FC Zestaponi 4-1 to lift the trophy for the first time. FC Gagra Tbilisi, Guria Lanchkhuti, Spartak Tskhinvali and Mertskhali Ozurgeti will all drop down a division next season.
Borussia Dortmund continues to excel under Jürgen Klopp with the Schwarzgelben sealing an 8th German title. Dortmund won the Bundesliga with a record 81 points this season and sent out a statement of intent to Rekordmeister FC Bayern München who had to be content with playing second best in every competition they played this season. Not only did they lose out to Dortmund in the league, they lost to them 5-2 in the German Cup final and then lost out in dramatic fashion to Chelsea FC in the final of the UEFA Champions League. Schalke 04 and surprise package Borussia Mönchengladbach qualified for the UEFA Champions League next season along with the top two. At the bottom there are sad farewells for 1. FC Kaiserslautern, 1. FC Köln and Hertha Berlin, the latter losing out to Fortuna Düsseldorf in a play-off. Next season will see 2. Liga champions Greuther Fürth come up as well as a welcome return for traditional club Eintracht Frankfurt.
Olympiakos sealed a record extending 39th Greek league championship with a month of the campaign remaining. Olympiakos won the title by seven points over eternal rivals Panathinaikos but the latter gained some consolation by finishing top of the post-season Champions League play-offs to help secure their place in next season’s competition. Olympiakos made a very good season even better by defeating Atromitos 2-1 in the Greek Cup final and secure yet another double for the club. At the bottom Ergotelis, Panetolikos and Doxa Drama face up to life in the second division next season.
Debreceni VSC won their sixth league title thanks to an eight point margin separating them from last season’s outgoing champions Videoton FC. The champions also went on to win the Hungarian Cup in dramatic style; following a 3-3 draw in the final against MTK Budapest, Debreceni prevailed 8-7 in a penalty shoot-out to claim their sixth win in this competition. The Hungarian League Cup was won for the third time in five years by Videoton FC who defeated Kecskeméti 3-0 in the final and helped gain some revenge for last season’s Hungarian Cup final defeat. At the bottom Zalaegerszeg and Vasas Budapest will be relegated next season to be replaced by Egri FC and MTK Budapest, the latter making a welcome return following their shock relegation last season.
Ironi Kiryat Shmona surprised most observers to win the Israeli league by fourteen points from the next three clubs, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Bnei Yehuda and Maccabi Netanya. The champions also won the League Cup title for a second consecutive season with a penalty shoot-out win over Hapoel Tel Aviv who, in turn, claimed the Israeli State Cup for the third consecutive year with a 2-1 win over Maccabi Haifa. At the bottom Maccabi Petah Tikva, Hapoel Rishon LeZion and Hapoel Petah Tikva drop into the second division after finishing in the bottom three spots in the relegation play-off group.
Juventus are back in the big time having won lo Scudetto for the first time since 2002-03. Their 28th league title came on the back of an unbeaten season (played 38, won 23, drew 15) and helped them pip outgoing champions AC Milan by four points. Another team who have recaptured trophy winning ways is SSC Napoli who won their first Coppa Italia since 1987 when defeating Juventus 2-0 in this season’s final in Rome. It proved to be a sad year for Lecce, Cesena and Novara, all of whom will play in Serie B next season and will be replaced by Pescara, Torino and one of Sampdoria or Varese who play in a two-legged play-off on June 6th and June 9th.
There is no domestic league in Liechtenstein but the national cup saw USV Eschen/Mauren finally end the dominance of FC Vaduz. The latter had won the cup in every year since 1998 with the previous three wins coming at Eschen/Mauren’s expense. But good things have to come to an end sometime and FC Vaduz’s dominance came to a close thanks to a penalty shoot-out win following a 2-2 draw. USV Eschen/Mauren, cup winners for the fifth time, will be rewarded with a place in the UEFA Europa League next season whilst FC Vaduz will continue to play their league football in the Swiss Challenge League (2nd tier).
F91 Dudelange won the National Division title for the seventh time in eight years but it wasn’t so easy for them this time around, claiming the title with a three point margin over record champions Jeunesse Esch. The champions also got the better of Jeunesse in the Luxembourg Cup final to help themselves to the double courtesy of a 4-2 win, helping “Diddeleng” claim their 5th win in this competition. US Hostert and US Rumelange went down automatically whilst FC Wiltz 71, who went down last season, will come back up after a one year absence following a 6-2 play-off win over Swift Hesperange.
FK Vardar Skopje claimed the Macedonian championship for the first time in eight years having cruised their way to a nine point win at the top of the table over nearest challengers Metalurg Skopje. FK Renova won their very first cup title after defeating FK Rabotnički 3-1 in the Macedonian Cup final. FK Ohrid and FK 11 Oktumvri go automatically down into the second division whilst FK Teteks Tetovo and FK Turnovo have won promotion/relegation play-off matches and will stay up next season.