Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Europe: Summer Leagues 2011 Review (Part Two)

Posted in European Football by peterbein on November 27, 2011

In the second part of our European summer leagues review we look back at another six leagues which fell upon the 2011 calendar year.

KAZAKHSTAN: FC Shakhter Karagandy (Played 32, Points 42) finished the season as Kazakhstan Premier League champions but it didn’t look so clear cut throughout the season. With the number of points halved after 22 games the table was led by FC Zhestyn who enjoyed a four point advantage over FC Astana with the eventual champions a further three points behind in third place. However the Championship Group stage saw a turnaround in fortunes for FC Shakhter who gained 21 points out of 30 in their last ten matches compared to FC Zhestyn’s 13 and FC Astana’s 10 to take the championship trophy. In the relegation group FK Kairat and FK Vostok suffered anguish after finishing in the bottom two places. Sixth place FC Ordabasy became the 14th different club to win the Kazakh Cup in 20 years after beating FC Tobol Kostenay 1-0 in the final.

LATVIA: FK Ventspils (Played 32, Points 71) regained their position as Latvia’s top club and managed to make it double trouble for their arch-rivals Liepājas Metalurgs in both league and cup. Ventspils won their fourth Virsliga title in six years by the narrowest of margins, a final day goalless draw against outgoing champions Skonto Riga helped them claim the point they needed to crawl over the line. The champions also had the better of Metalurgs in the Latvian Cup final with a 3-1 score line helping the Yellow and Blues to their second ever domestic double. Skonto FC finished in fourth place behind surprise package FC Daugava and, thus, failed to qualify for Europe for only the second time in the club’s twenty year history. They did see some silverware though, denying Ventspils a famous treble by beating them on penalties in the final of the cross-border Triobet Baltic League tournament. At the bottom of the table Olimps/RFS will drop down after a five year stay in the top flight. After finishing bottom of the nine team league they lost a two-legged play-off to FK Spartaks who will join 1. Liga champions Metta/LU in the 2012 Virsliga.

LITHUANIA: FK Ekranas (Played 33, Points 80) made it a hat-trick of clubs to win the league and cup double in the Baltic States. Like their counterparts Flora Tallinn (Estonia) and FK Ventspils (Latvia) did in their domestic arenas, Ekranas complimented the A Lyga title – their fourth straight championship beating Zalgiris Vilnius by eight points – with a Lithuanian Cup triumph. In an eventful cup final FK Ekranas eventually saw off FK Banga with a 4-2 victory in extra-time. FK Suduva Marijampole finished in third spot to secure a place in the UEFA Europa League whilst bottom two clubs FK Atlantas and FK Klaipeda will go down into 1 Lyga in 2012.

NORWAY: FK Molde (Played 30, Points 58) won their maiden Tippaligaen title with a five point difference separating them from nearest challengers Tromsø IL, the triumph all the more remarkable due it to being achieved in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s debut season as a coach. Rosenborg Trondheim managed to claw their way back up to a respectable third place following a dreadful start to the campaign finishing the season four points further back. Aalesunds FK had Michael Barrantes to thank for landing the club their second Norwegian Cup in three years, his goals proving the difference when beating Brann Bergen 2-1 in November’s showpiece final. At the bottom of the league Sarpsborg 08 and IK Start are the unfortunate teams who must tough it out in the second tier next season.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Shamrock Rovers (Played 36, Points 77) crowned a hugely successful season by clinching their second successive Airtricity League of Ireland title by holding off Sligo Rovers in a tight contest. Shamrock Rovers had already won the all-Ireland Setanta Sports Cup in May beating Dundalk 2-0 in the final, and became the first Irish team to qualify for the Europa League group stages, before winning their record extending 17th league title in November. League runners-up Sligo consoled themselves by winning the FAI Cup over Shelbourne but needed penalties to win it following a 1-1 draw after extra-time. Derry City scored the only goal of the game when defeating Cork City in the League Cup final early in the season. Both defeated cup finalists managed to win promotion to the top-flight along with Monaghan United whose 5-1 aggregate win over Galway United in a play-off saw them through. With three teams coming up and only one dropping down, the league will consist of twelve teams from the 2012 season.

SWEDEN: Helsingborgs (Played 30, Points 63) won their seventh Allsvenskan title with five points proving a sufficient enough margin to clinch the trophy ahead of nearest challengers AIK Solna. The newly-crowned champions also won the Swedish Cup final in early November with a 3-1 win over Kalmar helping them to double success. Outgoing champions Malmö FF could only finish fourth in the league and were pipped to a European spot by third placed Elfsborg IF who were three points better off. At the other end of the table Halmstad and Trelleborgs went down to the Superettan (second division) whilst Syrianska FC managed to fend off relegation by defeating Ängelholms IF 4-3 on aggregate in a promotion/relegation play-off and preserved their top flight status.

Ireland: Cross-Border tournament to begin sixth edition

Posted in European Football, UK Football by peterbein on February 12, 2011

Setanta Sports CupThe sixth edition of the all-Ireland Setanta Sports Cup, named after the Irish sports station, kicks off on Monday with an expanded tournament and a different format. Twelve teams will compete, six from Northern Ireland’s Carling Premiership and six from the Airtricity League in the Republic of Ireland, with four of those teams – Crusaders, Glentoran, Shamrock Rovers and Sligo Rovers – given a bye into the quarter-finals.

At the beginning of the tournament the clubs from Northern Ireland are well into their domestic season with every team having played nearly thirty games of the Premiership campaign. At the time of writing Linfield FC lead the Carling Premiership by ten points from Crusaders and appear to be the team most equipped from Northern Ireland to take the honours in the cross-border competition. Linfield, far and away the most decorated team from Northern Ireland, were the inaugural winners of this event in 2005 and will hope to begin this campaign with a victory over Dundalk in the first round. Traditionally this competition favours the clubs from the Republic of Ireland who have won each of the four tournaments played since 2006. Current champions Bohemians FC of Dublin, who defeated local neighbours Saint Patrick’s Athletic in last season’s final, begin the defence of their title with a tie against a struggling Portadown side on February 21st but they, like all sides from the south of the Emerald Isle, have yet to fulfil a fixture in their own domestic championship which doesn’t begin until March 4th.

Instead of group stages, the tournament is now embracing a straight knockout system with each round consisting of two legs until the final which will be played as a single match in May.

SETANTA SPORTS CUP – 1st Round Draw

Linfield FC v Dundalk

University College Dublin v Lisburn Distillery

Bohemians v Portadown

Cliftonville v St Patrick’s Athletic

The top two fixtures to be played on February 14th and 28th. The bottom two fixtures to be played on February 21st and March 1st.


Republic of Ireland: Title race goes down to the wire

Posted in European Football by peterbein on October 9, 2010

 

Airtricity League Logo

The Airtricity League is reaching an exciting climax

 

The Airtricity League in the Republic of Ireland is going down to the wire with just one point separating title chasing Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers with each team having two matches left to play. On another dramatic weekend of action Bohemians overtook Shamrock Rovers into first place with the former’s victory over St Patrick’s Athletic being complimented by a surprise home defeat for the latter at the hands of Sporting Fingal.

Shamrock Rovers went into the weekend as table toppers having enjoyed a two point advantage over their title rivals. The visitors to Tallaght Stadium were Sporting Fingal who were already in a comfortable fifth place in the ten team league and who had drawn all of their three previous league meetings with The Hoops this season. Would there be a fourth stalemate or would something give? When Shamrock Rovers took the lead through Thomas Stewart after 13 minutes it appeared that they would go on from there to gain three crucial points. The home side also received a great chance to double the lead in the 64th minute from the penalty spot but Chris Turner’s kick hit the crossbar and let Sporting off the hook. The home side’s lead lasted until the 87th minute when an equalizing goal from Sporting’s Gary O’Neill looked like the points would be shared between these two clubs yet again. However there was a shock in store when the visitors took the lead two minutes later after Glen Crowe’s effort was deflected into the goal to stun the home support who have now seen their team lose their fourth game in the last five league matches.

Bohemians, Irish champions for each of the last two seasons, took advantage of this unexpected late slip-up but they were made to work hard for it as they could only muster a one goal victory at home to fourth place St Patrick’s Athletic. A Kilian Brennan penalty in the 25th minute was saved by Pats’ keeper Chris Bennion but he was unable to stop the follow up from Raffael Cretaro whose fourth goal of the season proved the difference and ensured that Bohemians’ chances of a third successive league title were preserved.

The win means that the champions are undefeated in their last ten league games and they have hit form at exactly the right time whilst Shamrock Rovers are starting to lose their nerve. Both teams have two matches left to play in the Airtricity League with the new league leaders, who have 64 points after 34 games, facing 8th place Galway United and 6th place Dundalk. Shamrock Rovers, who are now one point behind having enjoyed a seven point lead a month ago, will play the bottom two clubs Drogheda United and Bray Wanderers in their final league matches.