Albanian clubs disappoint at first-leg European competition qualifying games

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times July 13, 2018 12:39

Albanian clubs disappoint at first-leg European competition qualifying games

TIRANA, July 13 – Albanian clubs failed to impress in their first-leg European competition qualification campaigns this week and chances of any Superliga team progressing to the next round have received a severe blow at a time when Skenderbeu, Albania’s most successful Europa League contenders, are facing a UEFA ban over match fixing.

Kukes disappointed with a home goalless draw against Malta’s Valleta in what was perceived as an easy first qualifying round for their Champions League campaign and the future of their Austrian coach Peter Pacult has been called into question unless Kukes manage to qualify in their second-leg July 17 away encounter.

A club with not much history in Albanian football, Kukes finished second in last season’s Superliga but replaced Superliga champions Skenderbeu in this year’s Champions League qualifying campaign.

The most successful Albanian club of the past decade, Skenderbeu have been temporarily suspended from European competition until a final say by Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration over their 10-year ban and €1 million fine they received by the European football’s governing body over European and domestic league campaigns in the past few years based on UEFA’s betting fraud detection system.

As chances of overturning the UEFA rule at the Court of Arbitration look minimal, Skenderbeu’s future looks quite uncertain and some of the elite players are already leaving the club. Skenderbeu are the only Albanian club to have made it to the Europa League group stage, with two appearances in the past three years and have claimed six Superliga titles since 2011.

In the Europa League campaign, all three Albanian clubs suffered losses and chances are that only Laçi could progress to the next second qualifying round as the only Albanian team that managed to score in the first-leg games. Cyprus’s Anorthosis came from behind to claim a 2-1 home victory, but the Albania club could take advantage of their away goal in the July 19 second-leg home encounter and progress even with a narrow 1-0 home win.

Partizani, a club with much history in Albanian football but who have failed to win the Superliga since the early 1990s, disappointed in their home game with Maribor, Slovenia’s most successful club, suffering a 1-0 home defeat.

Albania’s Europa League debutants Luftetari are almost out following an embarrassing 5-0 away loss against Latvia’s Ventspils.

Both Kukes and Luftetari took to the European competition games without their last season’s stars Sindrit Guri and Kristal Abazaj, both of whom moved to Belgian top league clubs Oostende and Anderlecht as two emerging talents that could serve Albania’s national side a lot for the upcoming Nations League and Euro 2020 qualification campaigns.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times July 13, 2018 12:39