Three goals from Uruguayan striker Richard Nuñez helped Grasshoppers Zurich demolish title rivals St Gallen 4-0 on Saturday, allowing the Zurich side to clinch their 26th Swiss football championship title on the final day of the season.
"It's been an excellent first season for me as coach," a delighted Hans-Peter Zaugg told swissinfo after the final whistle. "To win the championship is unbelievable. We enjoyed a good start to the season with a very young team and then grew in strength with four or five signings in the winter break."
The most remarkable of those new signings on Saturday was clearly Nuñez. Having cost Grasshoppers a reported SFr 5 million, the 25 year-old forward has wasted no time in justifying his fee, scoring nine goals in as many matches for the club.
The first of his three goals against St Gallen came after just 80 seconds. His second, scored a minute before the break, also seemed deliberately timed for the maximum psychological damage.
The hat-trick was completed in the 68th minute with Nuñez, inexplicably unmarked in the St Gallen area, banging in his third goal to start the celebrations on the Zurich bench.
"He's an excellent player," said a proud Zaugg afterwards. "One of those players who can really make a difference to a game."
Grasshoppers' fourth goal was scored by a player who has been making a difference in football games for more than a decade. Swiss international Stéphane Chapuisat grabbed his 21st goal of the season with six minutes remaining to add his first Swiss title to the German championship winner's medal and Champions League title won with Borussia Dortmund.
"Of course, every title is fantastic," beamed Chapuisat on Saturday. "But this has really been a great reward at the end of a long season and something very special for us. Everything's gone great with the blending together of the younger and more experienced players."
Chapuisat, who has said he plans to keep playing for at least two more years, will now be on hand to help Grasshoppers Zurich in their bid for a place in the Champions League.
St Gallen's defeat has ensured that Lugano will be the other Swiss team involved in the Champions League qualifiers, despite the Ticinese team's own 2-1 loss in Sion.
After going from league leaders to third place finishers in the space of a week, St Gallen have at least the compensation prize of a second successive year in the UEFA Cup tournament.
The winners of next month's Swiss Cup final between Yverdon and Servette will also go through to the UEFA Cup. Basel (who finished their league campaign with a 1-1 draw against Servette) and Lausanne (2-1 winners away to FC Zurich) are expected to seek a place in the UEFA Cup via the Intertoto knockout competition.
By Mark Ledsom, St Gallen
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