Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Mon 25 June 2007

European League Round-Up (Part 2)

We continue our journey around the lesser highlighted leagues of Europe to find out what's happened and what's happening at club level. First stop:

GREECE

The very first Greek Super League effectively came to an end back in April when Olympiakos had accumulated enough points not to be caught by eventual runners-up AEK Athens. The gap was nine points when the season ended in May, so Olympiakos enter the group stage of the Champions League next season while AEK start from the third qualifying round.

Panathinaikos, Aris and Panionios finished in the next three league places so they qualify for the 2007/08 UEFA Cup and they'll be joined by AE Larissa who won the Greek Cup with a 2-1 win over Panathinaikos.

Taking their place in the Intertoto Cup will be OFI Crete who finished 7th in the league, but at the wrong end of the table Kerkira, Aigaleo and Ionikos all finished in the bottom three. Their places next season will be taken by Asteras Tripolis, Levadiakos and Veria who come up from B' Ethniki.

Finally, many people expected Olympiakos' star signing Rivaldo to be this season's top goalscorer, but with 17 goals he finished one short of the total gained by Nikos Lyberopoulos of AEK Athens.

NETHERLANDS

PSV seemed to be coasting to another Eredivisie title during the first half of the 2006/07 season and were eleven points clear of the chasing pack after 20 games, but they took their foot off the gas and allowed AZ and Ajax to make a challenge. Such was PSV's fall from grace that when the final game of the season arrived, they, along with AZ and PSV were level on points - PSV now third in the table on goal difference.

Amazingly, leaders AZ lost 3-2 to Exelcsior Rotterdam, while PSV's 5-1 win over Vitesse gave them the goal advantage to leap over Ajax (who won 2-0 in their last match) and AZ to reclaim top spot and win the title.

All that means PSV enter the Champions League next season for the third time running while runners-up Ajax get the chance to enter via the third qualifying round. AZ, FC Twente, Griningen and Heerenveen will all play UEFA Cup football in 2007/08. FC Utrecht won their play-off for an Intertoto Cup spot, denying Vitesse while at the bottom, Den Haag were relegated automatically to the Eerste Divisie. Going down via the play-offs were Waalwijk and replacing them were De Graafschap (Eerste Divisie champions) and VVV Venlo.

This season's top goalscorer in the Eredivisie by twelve clear goals was Afonso Alves, the Brazilian playing for Heerenveen. His 34 goals easily eclipsed Danny Koevermans (AZ) and Blaise N'Kufo (FC Twente) who both finished the season with twenty-two.

NORWAY

The Tippeligaen (Premier Division) is currently in full swing and leading the way after 12 games is Stabæk on 25 points, followed by Brann on 23 and Lillestrøm and Viking on 21.

Stabæk went top at the weekend with a 1-0 away win over Tromso while Brann lost their place at the top after losing 3-1 away to Viking. Lillestrøm stayed in the top four with a 1-0 win over IK Start.

In the battle of the bottom two, Odd Grenland beat Sandefjord 4-0 at home to leave their opponents propping up the table on just nine points. Next up for Sandefjord is a tough home game against Lillestrøm next Sunday. Leaders Stabæk play sixth-place Stromsgodset while Brann host Tromso and Viking travel to Valerenga.

PORTUGAL

A close three-horse race resulted in Porto taking a second successive league title by one point ahead of Cup of Portugal winners Sporting Lisbon, who in turn finished one point ahead of third-placed Benfica.

Porto and Sporting go straight through to the group stages of the Champions League next season while Benfica will have to get their via the qualifying round.

Some seventeen points behind the Benfica were Sporting Braga on 50 points, closely followed by Belenenses and Paços de Ferreira. All three qualify for the 2007/08 UEFA Cup.

União de Leiria enter the Intertoto Cup while for Beira-Mar and Desportivo das Aves the Liga de Honra awaits after they finished in the bottom two places of the new 16-team BWIN Liga.

The top goalscorers were anything but prolific this season with Simão Sabrosa of Benfica heading the field on 10 goals. Hélder Postiga of Porto finished as runner-up with nine goals while José Pedro of Belenenses was one behind on eight.

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