Minnows Kukes claim first Superliga title

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times May 22, 2017 11:18

Minnows Kukes claim first Superliga title

kukesTIRANA, May 22 – Having played in the top flight of Albanian football for only the past five years, north-east Albania-based Kukes made history in the Albanian Superliga last weekend when they beat rivals Skenderbeu amid controversy to claim their first championship in their penultimate game.

Kukes beat 9-men Skenderbeu 2-0 with a brace by Croatian striker Pero Pejic, the Superliga top scorer with 28 goals, amid refereeing controversy as Enea Jorgji, an Albanian FIFA international referee, came under fire, with sixth straight champions Skenderbeu accusing him of ruling in favour of Kukes after denying them a penalty kick when Skenderbeu was down to 10 men and Kukes were leading 1-0 thanks to a generous penalty.

With Skenderbeu in 9-men for about 30 minutes, it was Pero Pejic again who sealed the result with an injury time goal to give Kukes a four-point lead over second-placed Partizani and Skenderbeu and make history for Kukes, with not much history in Albanian football, but having finished second three times in their past five years of playing in the Superliga.

The victory also put an end to Skenderbeu’s domination of Albania football after the south-east Albania-based club won the Albanian Superliga for six consecutive years, also making history as the first Albanian club to have made it to the group stage of a major European competition such as the UEFA Europa League in 2015 although their success was somehow overshadowed by a UEFA decision imposing a one-year ban from European competition against the Albanian champions on match-fixing allegations.

Kukes had been dominating much of this season remaining the only unbeaten team, but faced tough competition by reigning champions Skenderbeu and 15-times champions Partizani seeking a comeback after more than two decades of trophyless seasons.

With a final game yet to go, two big names in Albanian football, 24-times record Superliga champions Tirana and 9-times winners Vllaznia face the relegation threat. Tirana, who have played one of their worst seasons, desperately need to win against Vllania in their final Superliga encounter to save themselves the shame of a first ever relegation in about a century of history, but could also make it with a draw if Teuta holds Laçi to a draw.

The Albanian Cup final with six-time consecutive Superliga champions Skenderbeu at the end of May is the only consolation to Tirana fans this season.

Last year’s champions Skenderbeu will play home to Partizani on Saturday, May 27 in a decisive encounter for the second best team as the two clubs are currently level on points with Partizani holding an advantage on direct games and goal difference.

 

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times May 22, 2017 11:18