Gomel enjoy title triumph

published: Monday, 24 November 2003, 12:52
FC Gomel secured the Belarussian Premier League title by eight points from 2002 champions FC BATE Borisov.

FC Gomel claimed the Belarussian Premier League title for the first time, finishing eight points clear of 2002 champions FC BATE Borisov.

Dinamo domination
Gomel's capture of the 13th Belarussian championship means five different sides have won the title in the past eight seasons, after FC Dinamo Minsk emerged victorious in each of the first five campaigns. Dinamo were the last side to retain their title, in 1995.

Defensive strength
Gomel wrapped up the championship in the penultimate round of matches and had by far the best defensive record in the top flight, conceding just 12 goals in 30 games. At the other end of the field, striker Gennady Bliznyuk scored 18 goals to finish joint-top scorer in the league alongside Dinamo's Sergey Kornilenko.

'Consistent team'
Gomel's Russian coach Sergey Podpalyj, in his second season with the club, believes his side were deserved champions, saying: "We deserved first place as the team played consistently and didn't have long slumps."

Four-goal victory
BATE clinched runners-up position on the final day of the season, securing a 4-0 success at Dinamo to condemn the 1997 champions to third place. All four goals were scored in the second half, with Oleg Shkabara finding the net twice and Oleg Strahanovich and Pavel Shmigero once each. BATE thereby confirmed their status as the most consistently high achievers in Belarus; since winning promotion in 1998, the club have claimed the title twice – in 1999 and 2002 – finished second in 2000 and 2003 and third in 2001.

'Not enough quality'
Despite Dinamo's third-placed finish, coach Anatoly Baidachny, who took over in May, elected to leave the club to concentrate solely on the Belarus national side. "We don't have enough quality players, so I had to face difficult decisions almost every game," said Baidachny.

Cup consolation
Dinamo, meanwhile, had the consolation of winning the Belarussian Cup, defeating FC Lokomotiv Minsk 2-0 in the final under the guidance of former trainer Georgy Gurov

Two relegated
Lokomotiv's season ended in more disappointment as they were relegated along with bottom side FC Molodechno 2000. Lokomotiv-96 Vitebsk and MTZ-RIPO will take their places in the top flight next year.

European disappointment
On the international stage, some impressive displays from Belarus's national youth sides were not mirrored by the clubs. BATE were knocked out of the UEFA Champions League in the first qualifying round by Bohemian FC and FC Neman Grodno and Dinamo were eliminated by FC Steaua Bucuresti and Brøndby IF in the UEFA Cup qualifying round.

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