Skenderbeu on track for sixth straight Superliga title

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times February 25, 2016 09:59

Story Highlights

  • Skenderbeu, who last year made history in their debut Europa League campaign as the first Albanian club to reach the group stage of a major European competition, seem unrivalled even this season in the Albanian Superliga

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By Ervin Lisaku

skendTIRANA, Feb. 24 - With the Albanian Superliga already past the halfway stage, reigning champions Skenderbeu are on track for a sixth consecutive league title with a 4-point lead over sole rivals Partizani.

Skenderbeu, who last year made history in their debut Europa League campaign as the first Albanian club to reach the group stage of a major European competition, seem unrivalled even this season in the Albanian Superliga. Second-placed Partizani are their only rivals this season with the club, once the most successful side under communism, trophyless since 1993.

Skederbeu striker Hamdi Salihi is the league’s top scorer, having scored 19 goals in 19 appearances this season. Partizani forward Xhevahir Sukaj follows with 11 goals. Both Salihi and Sukaj joined their current clubs in 2015 returning home after several years of playing abroad.

“I am lucky to play in a team which creates a lot of scoring opportunities and maybe this is the reason I have managed to score such a big number of goals," said Sahihi who converted a penalty kick to score the winning goal against third-placed  Tirana last weekend.

The Albanian international who has played in Austria, the U.S., China and Israel joined Skenderbeu in July 2015 from Israeli's Hapoel Haifa and helped Skenderbeu qualify in the UEFA Europa League group stage.

Skenderbeu and Partizani have easy matches scheduled for this weekend when take on second from bottom Bylis and bottom Terbuni respectively in away fixtures.

Skenderbeu have been surprisingly dominating Albanian football in the past five years although having previously won only a single title back in the early 1930s. The success has come thanks to huge investment that brought to the southeastern club in the city of Korà§a promising  Albanian and foreign players. Coach Mirel Josa has led the Albanian reigning champions since 2012.

Third-placed Tirana have won the Albanian top league a record 24 times while Dinamo, the country’s second most titled club, have been relegated in the First Division since 2012.

Last December, Skenderbeu ended their Europa League campaign in Group H securing  only a 3-1 home win against Portugal's Sporting.

Skenderbeu became the first Albanian club to qualify for the Champions League play-offs after beating Moldova’s Milsami 4-0 on aggregate in the competition’s third qualifying round, automatically securing a place in the less prestigious Europa League group stage.

Two of the club's forwards, Nigerian striker Peter Olayinka and Kosovar Bernard  Berisha were transferred to Belgium's Gent and Russia's Anzhi Makhachkala, respectively in the January transfer window for record fees in the Albanian championship. Skenderbeu replaced the departures by signing promising Nigerian striker James Adeniyi from local Albanian Superliga club Laà§i.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times February 25, 2016 09:59