Team of the first half-season, 2015/16 edition

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Team of the first half-season 2015/16Team of the first half-season 2015/16After reviewing the performances of First League players, we came up with a list of the best team, complete with both starters and substitutes, during the first half of the season.

Stats such as games played, goals, assists and clean sheets, along with tracking the actual games, determined which players deserved a place in the team. There were tough choices to be made in several positions. The formation that best suited the starters is a 4-3-3 look with one defensive midfielder and two attacking midfielders unlike previous times when we had two defensive midfielders and one attacking midfielder. That also happens to be a formation occasionally used by the two best clubs this season, Vardar and Shkendija. Keep in mind that players had to play in at least half of the possible games (meaning 9 of 18) to be considered. Furthermore, it was important to take into account a suitable position for each of the starters instead of playing some guys out of position.

Tome Pachovski (Vardar) - M17 GC9 CS10 Y3 R0
The recently retired national team keeper provided stability to the best defense in the league, only conceding 9 goals. He did have some slip-ups in allowing soft goals, but the good outweighed the bad by a significant margin plus his rivals had also bad moments.

Aleksandar Milushev (Turnovo) - M18 G3 A2 Y3 R0
It is not easy for a left back to be playing for a struggling team. However, Milushev was pretty consistent and stood out even while playing for Turnovo, a club that doesn't get much attention. He played in all 18 fixtures, falling just 45 minutes short from playing the maximum in that stretch.

Kire Ristevski (Rabotnichki) - M17 G0 A1 Y2 R0
He shined during the Europa League qualifications and later was one of the few Rabotnichki players that kept their form during the league games. Although his team was disappointing and conceding goals almost every round, Kire was the most stable part of the defense.

Nemanja Mijušković (Vardar) - M18 G1 A1 Y1 R0
The Montenegrin defender proved to be a solid summer signing. He immediately cemented his spot in the starting lineup and even managed to get the attention in his national team which resulted in a call-up this past November.

Hovhannes Hambardzumyan (Vardar) - M14 G3 A5 Y5 R0
Since he came in Macedonia, the Armenian national team player has been the standout performer at his position, making this an easy choice. Excellent both defensively and offensively, he is someone that opponents must always be cognizant of.Team of the first half-season 2015/16Team of the first half-season 2015/16

Nikola Gligorov (Vardar) - M17 G0 A2 Y2 R0
The experienced defensive midfielder is quiet, but he leads by example on the field. His play often goes under the radar of fans, but his efforts are highly appreciated by those who know how to read the game.

Ferhan Hasani (Shkendija) - M9 G11 A4 Y0 R0
Hasani tore his ACL during the EURO 2016 qualifier against Ukraine, so he only played 9 games this season. However, he met the criteria that we used by playing in exactly half the matches. Frankly, he was outstanding in all of the games that he played for Shkendija, often times making it look easy. He scored 11 goals, including some beautiful free kicks. Once he even celebrated a hat-trick.

Juan Felipe (Vardar) - M17 G3 A4 Y6 R0
The Brazilian trequartista was brilliant for Vardar. A true creator who was the mastermind behind their team. To stop Vardar, you have to stop Felipe, something that many teams were unable to do.

Dejan Blazhevski (Vardar) - M17 G9 A4 Y2 R0
His dribbling and crosses from the left side guaranteed Blazhevski a spot among the best team. He did wonders with his right leg that resulted in being the leading scorer in Vardar with 9 goals.

Besart Ibraimi (Shkendija) - M18 G13 A10 Y1 R0
Ibraimi was clearly the most valuable player this half-season with 13 goals and 10 assists. He made sure that Shkendija didn't unravel after the devastating injury to Hasani. Ibraimi put up consistently solid performances, playing mostly as a center forward and left winger. He also sometimes switched to the right side, and that is where he is placed in this formation since Blazhevski is limited to only playing on the left.

Bazhe Ilijoski (Rabotnichki) - M18 G13 A3 Y3 R0
The captain of Rabotnichki currently shares the top of the goalscoring list with Besart Ibraimi. From the 18 games in which he played in, Ilijoski managed to score in 11, but his under-performing team failed to capitalize on his goals, winning only five times.

Bench:

GK Marko Jovanovski (Shkendija) - M18 GC16 CS8 Y0 R0
Together with Pachovski, Marko was included in the conversation to be the starter. He, too, had slip-ups in allowing some soft goals, but Pachovski eventually won out since he conceded far fewer goals than Jovanovski.

GK Kostadin Zahov (Bregalnica) - M14 GC19 CS5 Y1 R0
When you are a keeper at one of the relegation candidates, you get plenty of work. Zahov did concede 19 goals, but he made a number of great saves, being a bright spot on a team with few of them. An injury ended his first half prematurely.

LB Mite Cikarski (Rabotnichki) - M17 G2 A1 Y1 R0
Cikarski's style of play is very similar to that of Milushev, so we had a hard time choosing between the two. Also effective in both attack and defense, Milushev got the nod since he doesn't have as much help at Turnovo.

CB Boban Grncharov (Vardar) - M13 G1 A0 Y2 R0
Grncharov missed some time with an injury, but he was rock solid when healthy. He serves as the captain of what was the best defense. The experience of the 33-year-old former national team player is a big bonus Vardar.

CB Nemanja Ivanov (Sileks) - M18 G1 A1 Y0 R0
Ivanov is another Montenegrin defender that made a name for himself in the Macedonian league this season. He played the maximum 1620 minutes this half season and didn't receive one booking.

RB Mevlan Murati (Shkupi) - M16 G0 A1 Y1 R0
Murati is a complete right back, playing hard on defense and being active on offense. He was loaned out to Shkupi from Shkendija to receive regular game time, and he has excelled with his play, earning a call-up to the U21 national team.

DM Milovan Petrovikj (Rabotnichki) - M18 G1 A0 Y0 R0
Although his natural position is defensive midfielder, he rarely played there this half season. Miki was fielded all around for every problematic position (caused by injuries and lack of depth) as he played left back, left midfielder, defensive/central midfielder and even central defender. He performed admirably wherever he played. Not flashy, but gets the job done.

CM Stephan Vujčić (Rabotnichki) - M17 G2 A1 Y2 R0
The experienced German midfielder with Croatian origins was reliable, as always. Since his arrival in Macedonia, he is one of the best players of the league. Once he receives the ball, you know that the ball is secure and a smart decision will follow. Maybe the most important player on Rabotnichki's roster together with Ilijoski.

CM Armend Alimi (Shkendija) - M17 G4 A1 Y6 R1
Alimi is indispensable for Shkendija as he is the "brain" in midfield. Many actions start with a pass from him and he is a steady danger with his precise shot from distance.

LW Stenio Junior (Shkendija) - M17 G3 A4 Y4 R0
Statistically he doesn't stand out, but Junior sacrifices for the team. The Brazilian makes a lot of clever decisions and he is capable of playing everywhere on offense. Probably one of the most underrated players in the league.

RW Igor Nedeljković (Sileks) - M17 G7 A3 Y3 R0
Igor has been a totally different player in his second season at Sileks. Dangerous every time he gets the ball no matter on which flanks he is, he was clearly the best player on his team.

CF Sashko Pandev (Turnovo) - M15 G8 A1 Y2 R0
The younger brother of Goran captained Turnovo, showing true qualities as both a player and a leader. His solo runs often ended in goals by him or by his teammates. Unlike previous seasons, he was disciplined and avoided controversial actions towards referees.

Legend: M - matches; GC - goals conceded; CS - clean sheets; G - goals; A - assists; Y - yellow cards; R - red cards.

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