FC BATE Borisov were unstoppable in the Belarusian Premier League, winning their ninth successive title, and made it to the UEFA Champions League group stage for the fourth time in the last seven seasons. However, they had a rare lapse in the Belarusian Cup, losing to FC Neman Grodno in the quarter-finals.
Champions: FC BATE Borisov
BATE's first full campaign under coach Aleksandr Yermakovich started with a 2-0 loss against FC Shakhtyor Soligorsk, who had finished as runners-up in the previous four seasons. For a moment, it looked like a change might be coming, but BATE soon rallied and were to remain unbeaten for the remainder of the league season – a national record 31-game run. Five draws in the space of two summer months represented a wobble, but there was to be no serious resistance thereafter. Tellingly, in four encounters with BATE, their nearest rivals FC Dinamo Minsk scored just once.
Cup final: FC Neman Grodno 0-1 FC Shakhtyor Soligorsk
The first game at the new Borisov Arena was decided by one goal, scored by Artem Stargorodsky, though Neman deserve credit for having eliminated BATE after extra time in the quarter finals. Shakhtyor proved themselves to be knockout specialists as they represented Belarus in the 2014/15 UEFA Europa League, getting through two rounds before going out to PSV Eindhoven in the play-offs.
FC BATE Borisov – UEFA Champions League second qualifying round
FC Dinamo Minsk – UEFA Europa League second qualifying round
FC Shakhtyor Soligorsk – UEFA Europa League second qualifying round
2014/15 Belarusian Cup winners – 2015/16 UEFA Europa League second qualifying round
*subject to final confirmation from UEFA
Player of the year: Sergei Krivets (FC BATE Borisov)
In just 20 league appearances before his move to FC Metz in August, Krivets scored ten goals and set up 11 more, and it was his strike in the fourth minute of added time that earned BATE a 3-2 UEFA Champions League third qualifying round aggregate win against Debreceni VSC. "Football is worth playing for moments like these," he said afterwards. "We were ready to give not 100% or 150%, but much more." He gave that little bit extra in the play-offs – an assist in the first leg and a goal in the second – as BATE beat ŠK Slovan Bratislava 4-1 overall to reach the group stage.
One to watch: Pavel Savitski (FC Neman Grodno)
Runners-up in the cup final and eighth in the final league standings, Neman ended 2014 with little in terms of tangible success, but they may have the most marketable player in the league on their books in the form of 20-year-old Savitski. His personal-best haul of 11 league goals this season did not give a full picture of a man whose maturity has set him apart from his peers. With two goals in his first three international appearances since making his debut this year, he is very much one to keep an eye on.
Surprise package: FC Naftan Novopolotsk
Despite one of the lowest budgets in the Belarusian league, Naftan showed plenty of battling spirit under talented coach Valeri Stripeikis, with the 40-year-old one-time Naftan, BATE and Belarus striker getting the best out of a limited squad. A medal finish proved to be beyond them in the final shakedown, but fifth place represents a marked improvement on 2013, when they ended up tenth in the 12-team table.
Leading scorer: Nikolai Yanush (FC Shakhtyor Soligorsk), 15 goals
Relegated: FC Dnepr Mogilev
Promoted: FC Granit Mikashevichi, FC Slavia-Mozyr, FC Vitebsk
BATE's ninth successive championship extended their national record. They now have 11 Belarusian titles in total – another post-independence best.
"It was a tough season. Fans should understand that. We had new coaching staff and a lot of new players in the squad. But I am sure that we will be stronger next year. I want to say this to all of our true fans."
BATE chairman Anatoli Kapski
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