It was more of the same for BATE Borisov – the provincial club who represent and are sponsored by Borisov Works of Automobile and Tractor Electric Equipment – as they won a fourth successive Premier League title.
“After winning the Belarus league I can say that the current squad is even stronger than [the one] we had last season when BATE qualified for the group stage of the Champions League,” claimed coach Victor Goncharenko.
“The main difference is that we have a clear leader in every area of the team. Goalkeeper Sergei Veremko was reliable between the posts. In defence Ihor Shitov showed excellent commanding skills. Dmitri Likhtarovich was the linchpin in midfield, while the energetic Maxim Skavysh terrorised the defence of every club from the first until the final day of the season.”
After winning their first seven games, including a 3-1 victory away to their biggest rivals Dinamo Minsk, BATE’s surprise elimination from the Champions League on away goals against Ventspils of Latvia was followed by league defeats by Shakhtyor Soligorsk (2-3) and Dnepr Mahilyov (1-3). However, they soon regained their composure and didn’t lose another league game all season.
“A huge part of our current success is due to the experience our players received in last season’s Champions League in matches against the likes of Real Madrid and Juventus,” added Goncharenko. “They simply understood that there are no limits of development in football. They’ve gained confidence that helped them in the most difficult days of the championship.”
Runners-up Dinamo Minsk have an excellent football academy and boast the youngest squad in the league with an average age of under 23. Club president Yuri Chizh – who has appointed 19 different coaches since taking charge in 1999 – showed no signs of changing his ways, sacking Slavoljub Muslin after the 4-1 defeat by Tromso of Norway in the Europa League. He then ditched 27-year-old successor Kirill Alshevskiy after just two games and recruited former national team captain Sergei Gurenko, who noted: “To be more successful we need more stability.”
At the other end of the table, Gomel, Granit and Smorgon were relegated with only Belshina Babruisk being promoted as the top flight is reduced to 12 teams next season.
Player of the Season
Sergey KrYvets (BATE)
The Belarus midfielder played in all 26 league matches, scoring 14 goals and providing nine assists.