A 2-0 home defeat by KS Vllaznia at the weekend has put a crimp in KF Laçi's style in Albania, but the north-westerners are not abandoning hope of a second-placed finish and a return to Europe.
Eight matches remain until the end of term, and while top spot has already been earmarked for KS Skënderbeu – with the Korce team 14 points clear of the pack and seemingly guaranteed a fourth successive Super League title – the race for runners-up slot is wide open. Laç are level on 40 points with 15-time champions KF Partizani (promoted back to the top tier last year) and last season's second-place finishers FK Kukësi.
KF Laçi have won the Albanian Cup for the second time in three years thanks to a 2-1 victory against FK Kukësi.
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"We are disappointed," said 23-year-old Laç captain Erjon Vucaj afterwards. "We missed a great opportunity to move away from our rivals and take a step towards reaching second place. If we are going to make it to UEFA competition next season, we cannot lose any more games like this. It was a tough defeat, but we have to leave it behind and move forward."
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Experienced Laç coach Nica, though, feels his side have it in them to improve on their best-ever placing – fourth in 2009/10. "We have a good team and we believe in ourselves," explained the 59-year-old, in his third spell at the helm since 2009. "It will not be easy, but nothing is impossible. We just have to take it step by step and not let anything slip away."
Founded in 1960 as Industriali Laç, the club won their first major trophy last season, taking the Albanian Cup to earn a second stab at European football. Their second campaign ended much like their first in 2010/11 – with a UEFA Europa League first qualifying round loss – yet Stavri Nica's side are hoping Sunday's loss to mid-table Vllaznia (the latter in their first game since the return of coach Dervis Hadziosmanovic) was merely a pothole on the road back to Europe.
The decisive moment arrived shortly after the hour mark when Segun Adeniyi prised what proved to be the winning goal. It was the Nigerian midfielder's 16th goal of the season, and it secured the trophy as well as a place in qualifying stages of the UEFA Europa League – a fitting reward for Adeniyi, who scored twice in the first qualifying round against NK Rudar Velenje at the start of this campaign.