Kukes remain sole Albania club at European competition

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times August 2, 2018 19:50

Kukes remain sole Albania club at European competition

TIRANA, Aug. 2 – Kukes is the sole remaining Albanian club to continue the European competition dream, but will now have to fight in the qualifying rounds of the less prestigious Europa League after being knocked out of the Champions League campaign this week.

The Albanian club failed to impress in the second-leg qualifier against Azerbaijani champions Qarabag this week when they were thrashed 3-0 following a goalless home draw that temporarily left their qualifying hopes open. Kukes conceded three goals on penalty kicks following defensive blunders and played in ten men for most of the second half after defender Albi Alla was sent off.

Former Albania captain, midfielder Ansi Agolli, a key player who has been playing the Azerbaijani champions for the past eight seasons, was not fielded in the second game after playing a full 90 minutes in the first-leg encounter in Albania.

Qarabag is a much more experienced team that made history in the Azerbaijani football last season when they became the first local club to reach the UEFA Champions League group stage with Albanian midfielder Agolli playing a key part in their success.

Kukes will now apparently face Georgia’s Torpedo Kutaisi in the third qualifying round of the Europa League after failing to progress in the Champions League campaign but will also have to make it through another play-off round to reach the Europa League group stage.

Kukes qualified to the second qualifying round of the Champions League after beating Malta’s Valleta on a late away equalizer.

A club with not much history in Albanian football, last season’s Superliga runners-up Kukes are replacing champions Skenderbeu who are battling at Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport a 10-year European competition ban and a €1 million fine handed by UEFA on match fixing.

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, but the club’s future is now seriously endangered as chances are the Court of Arbitration for Sport could only slightly reduce the harshest ban ever handed to a European club by European football’s governing body.

Meanwhile, Laçi was knocked out of the Europa League this week after losing 6-0 on aggregate to Molde, one of the toughest Norwegian sides with much experience at European competition.

Laçi made it to the second qualifying round of the Europa League following a second-leg home win against Cyprus’s Anorthosis.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times August 2, 2018 19:50