Italian Moggi-Iuliano duo disappoint in Partizani debut as new Albanian Superliga season kicks off

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times September 13, 2017 15:05
Partizani President (C) Gazmend Demi shakes hands with Mark Iuliano, Lucciano Moggi (R)

Partizani President Gazmend Demi (C) shakes hands with Mark Iuliano, Lucciano Moggi (R)

TIRANA, Sept. 13 – Albania’s Partizani and their new managing Italian duo, former Juventus managing director Lucciano Moggi and ex-defender turned coach Mark Iuliano disappointed in their Superliga debut as title-contenders Partizani conceded a 2-0 home defeat against Laçi who hardly managed to escape relegation last season.

Partizani, who are hoping to make a decades-long comeback as Superliga champions after finishing second in the past two seasons, hired former Juventus managing director Lucciano Moggi as adviser to president Gazmend Demi, former Juventus defender Mark Iuliano as the club’s new coach and transferred striker Edgar Çani from Pisa who were relegated from Serie B in the past season.

The opening Superliga campaign last weekend was a complete failure for the Reds who despite creating a lot of scoring opportunities failed to convert and conceded two second half goals, one of which following a blunder by substitute goalkeeper Xhika who replaced captain Alban Hoxha, punished on the bench for breach of club discipline.

Partizani now face an even tougher encounter with reigning champions Kukes in the second Superliga week in another home fixture that will be played in Tirana’s ‘Selman Stermasi’ stadium on Sept. 18.

The encounter will be the best test for Partizani to show their strength against one of the direct title rivals along with Skenderbeu.

Speaking to reporters after Partizani debut defeat, Lucciano Moggi defended the club’s decision to punish Albanian international Alban Hoxha, the long-serving Partizani captain for breach of rules after he was called up for Albania’s two qualifiers with Liechtenstein and Macedonia in early September.

“We preferred undertaking the risk because it’s better losing one game and adhering to the rules,” Moggi told daily Panorama Sport in an interview.

“The team dominated the game and we conceded the goals because of our own mistakes in two counterattacks. There is nothing to worry about the opening game. It’s better that it happened now as we have time to learn lessons and understand what we have to do,” he added.

The 80-year-old Italian transfer guru, who is suffering a lifetime ban from Italian football for his role in the 2006 ‘Calciopoli’ match-fixing scandal, was hired as Partizani adviser in late April 2017.

Moggi has earlier announced he targets turning Partizani into “a little Juventus.”

“I am not an official with a say in Partizani’s decision-making, but an adviser to President Demi. As such, I have advised the president to create a ‘little Juventus’ which means doing what I achieved with that club, with Torino or Napoli, the establishment of a youth basis because a team cannot only rely on purchases, but also sales,” the 80-year-old has said in a TV interview.

Once the most successful Albanian club under communism, Partizani have won the national league 15 times, but have been trophyless since 1993.

In the other Superliga opening games, reigning champions Kukes narrowly beat newly promoted Kamza 1-0 while Skenderbeu claimed a 2-0 home win with Flamurtari.

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. They are also this year’s favourites to win the Albanian Superliga.

Skenderbeu will play their opening Europa League group stage match on Sept. 14 away to Ukraine’s Dynamo Kyiv, considered a favorite to make it to the knockout stage. Serbia’s FK Partizan and Switzerland’s Young Boys are the two other opponents Skenderbeu will play in the group stage fixtures scheduled from September to December.

Albania’s most successful top flight club Tirana is missing in this season’s Superliga following its surprise first-ever relegation last season after about a century in the top Albanian league. The record 24-times Superliga champions recently beat Superliga champions Kukes to win their 11th Albania Super Cup.

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.

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

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 13, 2017 15:05