Newly relegated Tirana beat Superliga champions to win 11th Albania Super Cup

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times September 7, 2017 13:29

Newly relegated Tirana beat Superliga champions to win 11th Albania Super Cup

TIRANA, Sept. 7 – Newly relegated Tirana claimed a surprise victory against Superliga champions Kukes to win their 11th Albania Super Cup, setting a new record in the almost 30-year history of the pre-season fixture between the Albanian Cup and top league winners.

A long-range left-footed shot by defender Erion Hoxhallari just before injury time gave Tirana a deserved victory over Kukes who played in 10 men for 60 minutes. The winner also avoided extra time and possible penalty shootout as north-east Albania-based Kukes with not much history in Albania’s top flight were seeking a second consecutive Super Cup victory.

The Super Cup victory is a morale booster for Tirana, the country’s most successful club who will be playing in the First Division this season following their humiliating relegation from the Albanian Superliga after about a century in the top flight of Albanian football.

Having played in the top Albanian league for only the past five years, but finishing second three times, north-east Albania-based Kukes made history in the Albanian Superliga last season as they claimed their first title.

Both Kukes and Tirana were eliminated in the first rounds of their Champions League and Europa League qualifying campaigns. South-east Albania-based Skenderbeu, the most successful Albanian club of the past decade, were the only Albanian team to shine on international stage this summer, claiming a second Europa League group stage qualification.

Tirana, who have hired Brazilian coach De Maria, face the tough task of making it to the Albanian Superliga and bringing back irritated fans to the stadium.

“It was a good season start, the team beat the champions playing beautiful football. We are sorry to have been demoted but this is an incentive to make it to the top flight again,” said Ze Maria, a former Brazilian international who spent most of his career as a right back with Italian clubs until the mid-2000s.

Tirana have been drawn in Group B of the First Division with Apollonia, Bylis and Shkumbini as the toughest among the 10 clubs fighting for promotion to the Albanian Superliga.

The capital city team will play their opening First Division match at home to modest Fushe-Kruja-based Iliria on Sept. 16.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times September 7, 2017 13:29