Kukes hold Partizani to lead Albanian Superliga

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times December 7, 2016 12:53

Kukes hold Partizani to lead Albanian Superliga

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  • Kukes, who have been playing in the Superliga only during the past five years have made an impressive performance since 2012 finishing second four times and making a good performance even at the Europa League qualifying campaigns, being the only key rival to Skenderbeu who have dominated Albanian football in the past six years

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TIRANA, Dec. 7 – Kukes held Partizani to goalless draw on Tuesday in a key encounter with a direct title rival that saw the northeastern club with not much history in Albania’s top league lead the Superliga on better goal difference after the 14th week with 28 points, level with sixth straight champions Skenderbeu. Partizani trails the leaders by three points and is considered a key favorite to win a long-awaited Superliga title after more than two decades of trophiless seasons and relegation to inferior leagues. The Reds made a historic comeback to European club football last summer replacing Skenderbeu in the Champions League qualifying campaign after the Albanian champions were banned from European competition for 1 year over match fixing allegations.

Kukes coach Ernest Gjoka said he was pleased with the north-easterners performance.

“Sure, I’m pleased with the draw against a direct rival. We should keep our feet on the ground although we got four points in two encounters with Partizani. We want to keep up this advantage with all rivals. In such matches, the important thing is earning at least one point,” he has said.

Kukes, who have been playing in the Superliga only during the past five years have made an impressive performance since 2012 finishing second four times and making a good performance even at the Europa League qualifying campaigns, being the only key rival to Skenderbeu who have dominated Albanian football in the past six years.

Partizani coach Sulejman Starova blamed the result on the referee, who according to him, denied striker Caleb Ekuban a regular early goal for an alleged offside. The Italian-born Ghanaian footballer has scored five goals for Partizani this season, being the club’s best scorer but trailing Kukes Croatian striker Pero Pejic by three goals as the league’s top scorer.

“There is real irritation because we are not converting in front of the goal. Then, turning to the referee, we were punished. Imagine the game if we weren’t denied the early goal, there would be another match and Kukes would not be defending all the time,” Starova said.

Meanwhile, fourth-placed Tirana lost a golden chance to keep up the leaders’ pace after losing away to Flamurtari 1-0 in Vlora earlier on Sunday.

Reigning champions Skenderbeu were earlier held to a goalless draw with Vllaznia as former international Hamdi Salihi failed to convert a Panenka penalty.

With 22 other weeks to go, it is still early to predict the winner of this season which will be apparently decided in a tough competition among the current top four with Skenderbeu and Partizani being the top favorites again after last year’s top 2 finish.

 

 

 

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times December 7, 2016 12:53