Europe: 2011-12 Season Review – Part 4
In the final installment of Stoppage Time – International Football Blog’s review of the season nine leagues, ranging from Spain to Turkey and Scotland to Wales, are featured to complete this 2011-12 round-up:
Scottish football has gone through some emotions in the past nine months as Glasgow Celtic won their first league championship for four years whilst their arch rivals Glasgow Rangers are facing a very different fight with the tax man as the club’s very survival is at stake. Celtic won the league title by a massive 20 points from Rangers who had been deducted ten points as a result of going into administration. Neil Lennon’s Celtic side had the chance to land a treble but lost out to Hearts of Midlothian in the Scottish Cup semi-final with the Edinburgh based club going on to beat their city rivals Hibernian FC in the final to win the competition for the eighth time. Celtic then lost out to Kilmarnock FC in the Scottish League Cup with “Killie” having won the game 1-0 in the dying minutes to claim their maiden title. Motherwell FC will replace Glasgow Rangers in the qualifying rounds of the UEFA Champions League next season. At the bottom Dunfermline Athletic go straight back down and will be replaced by Scottish First Division (2nd tier) champions Ross County.
Partizan Belgrade are champions for the fifth time in a row after seeing off bitter rivals Crvena Zvezda with a twelve point margin separating the two giants of Serbian football. Crvena Zvezda won the Serbian Cup for the second time in three years following an easy 2-0 win over FK Borac Čačak. The losing cup finalists will drop into the second division next season having finished in the bottom two of the Super Liga along with Metalac Gornji Milanovac.
MŠK Žilina won the Slovak league and cup double for the first time. The league championship was won for the sixth time with just two points separating them from runners up Spartak Trnava whilst their maiden Slovak Cup triumph came with a 3-2 extra-time win over FK Senica. With only one relegation spot in the twelve team league, bottom club Dunajska Streda find themselves going down into the second division next season.
NK Maribor won their tenth title in Slovenia finishing a massive twenty points clear of second place Olimpija Ljubljana. In the Slovenian Cup final the champions made it a double as Maribor defeated NK Celje on penalties following a 2-2 draw to claim the cup for the seventh time. At the bottom NK Nafta Lendava went down automatically to the second division with the possibility of ND Triglav Kranj joining them depending on the outcome of the end of season promotion/relegation play-off with NK Dob.
Real Madrid are back at the top of La Liga for the first time since 2008 as José Mourinho’s men finally got one over FC Barcelona, winning the league by nine points to seal a record extending 32nd title. FC Barcelona did gain some consolation by extending their own record of wins in the Copa del Rey to twenty six as they thrashed Athletic Bilbao 3-0 in the Spanish Cup final. For Athletic Bilbao the pain of domestic cup defeat was doubled by that on the European stage as they also went down 3-0 to Atlético de Madrid in the final of the UEFA Europa League. Barcelona and Real Madrid are joined in next season’s Champions League by Valencia CF and Malaga CF but a team who started the season in Europe’s top competition will not even feature in the top flight next season. Villarreal CF surprisingly finished in the drop zone and will go down to “la Segunda” along with Sporting Gijón and Racing Santander. Deportivo de La Coruña, who went down last season, will return having won the second division title.
FC Basel reclaimed the Swiss Super League title for a third successive season by strolling to a 21 point margin of victory over nearest challengers FC Luzern to claim their 15th championship. The top two also fought it out in the final of the Swiss Cup where FC Basel would take the honours again with penalties needed to decide the outcome following a 1-1 draw. At the bottom of the league Neuchâtel Xamax would have their licence revoked at the beginning of the year and would not be able to see out their last 16 league games whilst FC Sion were deducted 36 points for allegedly fielding ineligible players and finished the season as the de facto bottom club. They did, however, put some gloss on the season by defeating FC Aarau 3-1 in a two-legged play-off to help preserve their place in the Super League next season.
There has been much controversy in Turkey this season with match-fixing scandals and allegations of corruption rife throughout the league. However there was an exciting climax to the league season with just one point separating eventual champions Galatasaray from arch rivals Fenerbahçe as the race for the Turkish Super League went to the wire. “Gala” topped the regular season with a nine point advantage but ended the season with just the solitary point keeping them apart from “Fener”, both of whom drew 0-0 against each other in the last match of the season to help Galatasaray win their 18th championship. Fenerbahçe did win some silverware just three days after the league campaign when thrashing Bursaspor 4-0 in the Turkish Cup final to win their first cup in 29 years. Samsunspor, Manisaspor and Ankaragücü all drop down into the second division next season.
Shakhtar Donetsk claimed the league and cup double for the second successive season as their dominance of Ukrainian football shows no sign of waning. The Miners got the better of arch-rivals Dynamo Kyiv in the Ukrainian Premier League, winning the title by four points to take their tally of championship wins to seven. Shakhtar’s record in the Ukrainian Cup is even better having claimed their eighth win of the competition when defeating local rivals Metalurh Donetsk 2-0 in the final. At the other end of the standings Obolon Kyiv and PFC Oleksandria finished in the bottom two and will go down into the second division next season.
The New Saints have reclaimed the Welsh Premier League title. The club won its sixth championship by getting the better of outgoing champions Bangor City to the tune of five points. Third place Neath Athletic should’ve been fighting it out for a UEFA Europa League spot but the third placed club lost out when applying for FAW and UEFA licences and were forcibly relegated, thus sparing Newtown AFC from the drop this season. In the cup competitions The New Saints secured the double with a 2-0 win over second tier Cefn Druids FC whilst Afan Lido FC won the League Cup after finally seeing off the challenge of Newtown AFC in the final via a penalty shoot-out to win the cup.