Author: Nadir KHOSROVOGHLU
Just before the end of the last round of the championship of Azerbaijan Garabagh became the strongest team of the country for the sixth time in a row. It was a record set by Gurban Gurbanov's team. None of the teams in the Premier League have been able to get gold medals six times in a row, which means the Stallions will represent Azerbaijan in the Champions League again.
It is the sixth championship in Gurban Gurbanov's career, and he leaves behind Aghasalim Mirjavadov, who achieved similar success with his team five times. In general, ten coaches led their teams to the gold medals of the Azerbaijani championship.
For Gurban Gurbanov, this medal became the tenth besides six gold, as he also won two silver and two bronze medals at the national championship. Roberto Bordin, who received the silver medal with Neftchi, became the first Italian head coach to win a medal in Azerbaijan. The success of Aftandil Hajiyev as the head coach was a bronze medal with Sabail FC. These two specialists brought the number of head coaches, who were awarded medals in Azerbaijani championships, to thirty-seven.
Ceratinly, one of the main factors determining the success of Garabagh is its stable game performance. Although experts, especially at the beginning of the season, noted the weaker performance of the Stallions compared to previous seasons, Gurban Gurbanov, even with small rotational opportunities in the lineup, still did not allow his main rival Neftchi to win gold medals. The main formula of success for Garabagh was a stable game and discipline in the team. Even in games where points were lost, players did not give in to emotions, working on correcting their mistakes.
Back in the past, there was a period when the gap between Neftchi and Garabagh was quite large. Garabagh competed in the Euroleague while Gurban Gurbanov was also the head coach of the national team. Then he was given the task to take the team from the group in the League of Nations. In addition, let us not forget the technical defeat in the game with Sabail. Would Neftchi be ahead of its opponent in the standings in this case?! The second round of the championship showed the true strength of Garabagh. Gurbanov broke up with the national team, and the team completed its Euro tour. All potential and attention was focused on the national championship. In such conditions, the team from Aghdam managed to defeat Neftchi. Confident performance of the opponent involuntarily put pressure on Neftchi. Roberto Bordin failed to defend his team players from this psychological burden.
After the winter, the dangerous trio of Neftchi (Bagali Dabo, Mirabdulla Abbasov, Dario Federico) fell apart. Brazilian midfielder Federico parted with the team in the winter, as he wished to leave the team. It is believed that trying to keep a player, whose heart is not beating with the club, is a useless effort. But the head coach and the management of Neftchi still had to keep him by all means. The club decided to make money on the player, as had Federico been kept until the end of the championship, he would have left as a free agent in the summer. But if the objective is to be a champion, then one has to make advances, such as increasing the salary of the player, consider his other requirements, perhaps a compromise solution would be found. The destruction of the system does not promise anything good, which was confirmed in the second round. True, Vangelis Platellas is also not a weak player. However, Dario was more useful to the team. In addition, Federico knew better the championship, local football and rivals. Another link of the three mentioned above was broken with the arrival of Gianluca Sansone. Although he later joined the team, he was already in the starting lineup in the third game after the winter break. By the way, in that game with Zira, Neftchi failed to find an approach to the opponent's goal. Undoubtedly, before the transfer of Sansone, Mirabdulla Abbasov had already received the first psychological blow, since he was objectively expecting that the striker who played in series A of the Italian Championship would take his place in the first team. The couple of Kirill Petrov and Anton Krivotsyuk have demonstrated a good performance as midfielders. Transfer of Mamadi Mboja and Petru Raku when Ruslan Abishev returned to the team also violated the balance. Perhaps scoring 5 goals, Mboja influenced the fate of several games. But he was brought in not to score goals, but to solve the problem of Neftchi in defence. The team needed not a goal-scoring defender, but a back-line player who did not miss the assists of the opponents. With his arrival, Krivotsyuk also faded into the background. In a word, the replacements made in the winter break turned out to be unsuccessful, and the equality of points in the third round signalled that at the last, crucial stage the situation would become even more serious.
In Garabagh, however, captain Rashad Sadigov plays an instrumental role in the team's performance. Despite his unnatural age for a football player, he brings in great benefit to the team as a leader. In this context, Neftchi does not have such a leader. True, Emin Mahmudov, who demonstrated a very high performance during the season, can be considered as Sadigov's equal. For example, he scored seven goals and made seven assists. In his absence, the team periodically experienced difficulties. However, the game leadership in the team is not just limited to the desire to score goals. No matter how good Emin Mahmudov was, no matter his accomplishments in the team, he failed to become Rashad. Otherwise, he would be able to mobilise the team in the most difficult moments, to become the right hand of the head coach in terms of finding ways out of the situation. At one time, Gabala also lost the gold of the championship to Garabagh precisely because of the absence of such a leader and captain, which is Rashad Sadigov for the Stallions.
Obviously, if a team loses a championship, then this is also the coach’s fault. The disputes and conflicts of the Italian specialist Roberto Bordin with his colleagues led to additional motivation and separate preparation of the majority of the teams for the games with Neftchi. As a result, the white-and-blacks lost points with teams of medium and rather weak levels. Plus, Neftchi sometimes showed a frankly cowardly game, the coach conducted unsuccessful replacements, leading to a negative result. In response to all this personally Bordin. It is clear that by experience of the head coach and players, by stability and a number of other factors, Garabagh is way better than Neftchi. But Bordin as a result of his mistakes missed a real advantage. However, the resignation of the Italian coach will be a wrong decision. His resignation, especially before the Euroleague, will inevitably lead to another fiasco. It is possible, at a minimum, to give him a chance also on the international stage and make a decision based on the results obtained there. It is not difficult to understand the desire of Neftchi fans about the championship of the team. However, the frequent change of head coaches, as a rule, brings only harm to the team.
Thus, three clubs, which this summer will represent Azerbaijan in European competitions, are already known: Garabagh, Neftchi and Sabail. Garabagh will compete in the Champions League, and Neftchi and Sabail - in the Euroleague. Garabagh will join the tournament from the first qualifying stage. In the draw, which will be held on June 18, the team will also be in the basket.
Let's not forget that being a national champion is not enough. The main goal is to adequately represent Azerbaijani football in European stadiums.