Sep 28 2010

Spartak 3-0 Zilina

What did we make of Zilina?

Tactical analysis is not my strong point so I’m not going to go down that road in too much detail.  However I will note down a few quick impressions after just watching Spartak Moscow cruise past MSK Zilina.

Pavel Hapal seemed to go with a relatively defensive starting XI despite saying he would still go out and attack the Russians.  Ceesay is not a world-beater and the team can obviously function without him & I suppose the decision to leave the Gambian on the bench was vindicated by bringing him on for the 2nd half.  In all honesty he didn’t do much when he did come on, his physical presence caused a few more problems for the Spartak defense, but he was trying a bit too hard and his game just wasn’t flowing.

Ceesay is 6’5″ and he is not bad in the air.  Zilina’s service into the box, especially from the left was atrocious.  Majtan was really off the pace, looked slow and lost the ball several times.  Poor performance from him.

Oravec is not bad upfront but it doesn’t work playing him on his own.  He needs some support up there and at least it started to look better for a few minutes when Ceesay came on.

Jez should have done better, especially with the set-pieces.  He’s also shown this season what he is capable of and the way he approached the free-kicks here he just looked tired.  In these type of matches, the underdog needs to do something dangerous with free kicks in the final third.  Zilina had a few of them, and didn’t really produce anything to test the Spartak keeper.

Why wasn’t Bello playing?

Some of the defenders showed good moments, possibly a sign they could play at a higher level.  However collectively the defence struggles at this level facing an attack as potent as Spartak Moscow’s.  There is not enough quality in the Slovak domestic league to prepare these guys for this level of football.  Same applies to Martin Dubravka, and in his case, I do hope somebody buys him and gives him the coaching and opportunities to develop into the top class keeper he has the potential to be.

I speculated in the review of last week’s league fixtures that due to a lack of strength in depth, Zilina’s squad was starting to show signs of strain due to the 2-match-a-week fixture list at the moment.  For me this feeling increased after watching this display.  In the 2nd half a lot of the players looked tired, while Spartak Moscow were cruising through to full time and even produced a third.  All that at the end of their own domestic season.  Zilina’s is really just starting.

Apologies if this post was too negative, credit where it’s due as in horrible conditions with an intimidating atmosphere at the Luzhniki and a travelling contingent I estimate at around 50, Zilina’s players never gave up.

Hope back home for Slovan?

Away fans: Outnumbered by police?

11 responses so far

11 Responses to “Spartak 3-0 Zilina”

  1.   James Baxteron 28 Sep 2010 at 11:51 pm

    Great post, especially coming so soon after the match. Have to disappoint you by agreeing with nearly all of it, especially the point about tiredness. Slovak players simply aren’t used to three games a week at this stage of the season. Zilina suffered similarly two years ago. The squad does not lack for numbers but the quality in depth is not there yet. Even in the league, they struggle if more than two or three regulars are out.

    For me, Oravec can play alone up front but he hasn’t done it for a long time now (Zilina have been playing 4-4-2 or 4-1-3-2 since the start of this Spring) and that showed. I didn’t think the starting tactics were bad necessarily ; Hapal clearly didn’t want the midfield areas as open as they were against Chelsea and Ceesay has been flattering to deceive lately. Given all this, you can see what the idea was. It just didn’t work against Moscow’s slick passing and running. Bello was limping by the end of Saturday’s match, after being one of the better players. He wouldn’t have been dropped so must have been injured.

    Can’t really disagree about Majtan either. I think Hapal sees him as a Dirk Kuyt type player (I’m sure Zonal Marking has a name for this – a nominally attacking wide player who’s actually there to block the opposition’s full-back) but it seems to be compromising the attacking qualities he has. He hasn’t got enough tricks to be a real threat on the flanks.

    But you implied I have to disagree with something, so what about this : Dubravka should not be sold to become a top-class keeper, at least not yet. Time is on his side. Zilina is a bit of a goalkeeping factory with all three of Slovakia’s World Cup keepers spending significant periods at the club. That shows how good a goalkeeping coach Miroslav Seman is. He does have a challenge on his hands now to help Dubravka get his confidence back. I’d suggest the best way might be to stop resting him for league games and maybe even bring in Krnac (who hasn’t put a foot wrong in the matches he’s played) for the CL.

    Finally,credit to Moscow for a fine performance and (again) to you for a fine post.

  2.   britskibelasion 29 Sep 2010 at 12:27 am

    Fair enough, actually it’s really not in the interest of MSK Zilina or any other Slovak club if the better players all leave to ‘fulfil their potential’.
    Really we want the quality players to stay at home for as long as possible. The only problem with a goalkeeper (and defence) is that if they’re at the top of the league the whole season are they really being tested? It’s a bit like in the Eredivisie – Twente have played 7 matches and kept 5 clean-sheets so far this season. Last weekend they came up against Ajax, 2 goals conceded. Wait and see what happens tomorrow against Spurs.

    I suppose it’s a question of what is needed for development of players for the National team compared to what is needed for development of the club game, and this is one of the biggest problems facing football in Slovakia at the moment. As the Dutch commentator pointed out on numerous occasions tonight, none of Zilina’s players featured at the World Cup, and they’re National Champions.

    To be honest, I wasn’t fully aware of the Zilina production line of goalkeepers. Is there another one hiding in the wings? Let’s hope he gets a chance in the later CL games, like you suggest!

  3.   Moodonthepitchon 29 Sep 2010 at 1:07 am

    Not knowing anything about Zilina other than what I read on your blog, and never having seen them play, maybe it was foolish of me to think a 2-1 result to Spartak was realistic.
    I can tell you that Zilina looked no better in person than as you described post match report. Spartak and Zilina were just on two different levels tonight, especially in the first half. Aiden McGeady was a beast for Spartak down the right wing. Luckily, Dubravka had a “man of the match” performance for me. It could have been a lot worse without him in goal.

  4.   britskibelasion 29 Sep 2010 at 1:19 am

    Great to hear first hand from someone in the ground!
    In all honesty, I’d have probably also have gone for a 2-1 before the match. Until seeing this performance, I would always fancy Zilina to get a goal, even away in Europe. For a few minutes at the start of the 2nd half I thought they might even carve out a chance. However this was one of their worst performances of this season so far in Europe, possibly on a par with Birkirkara away back in July (although I didn’t see that one!).
    Maybe it’s really the difference in class, maybe it’s the tiredness, or a bit of both. Credit to Spartak though, they looked a very good side, and clearly a class or two above Sparta Prague. Would like to see them progress from the group.
    Also good you got to see some of Dubravka’s quality, felt he let himself down a bit against Chelsea.

  5.   Alexanderon 29 Sep 2010 at 1:25 am

    Bello, I believe, did not play because he had some minor problem with his knee.

    It was the first time, by the way, that order on the terraces was enforced by the ultras and hools themselves, acting as official stewards by way of an experiment.
    One thing that the Spartak firms agreed on before the game was keeping the flares out of the stadium for the Champions Leage matches, considering the heavy fines earlier imposed by UEFA on the club for such offenses.
    A glimpse of the resulting performance can be seen here -

  6.   britskibelasion 29 Sep 2010 at 1:31 am

    I was really impressed with the atmosphere & also that Spartak arranged for ticket sales to Slovaks actually in Moscow, meaning any fans who live outside of Zilina / Slovakia could get hold of tickets.

    That’s really interesting to hear that the fans groups agreed to keep the pyrotechnics out of the stadium. Perhaps some Slovak clubs could do with following that advice (Slovan & Trnava for example). In a football world where money is so tight, the worst thing that can happen when clubs get in Europe is to have to pay big fines to UEFA.

    Also, I would be surprised if the show from VAK 410 early in the Ajax v Milan match doesn’t get some attention from UEFA.

  7.   Moodonthepitchon 29 Sep 2010 at 10:28 am

    The atmosphere was indeed great and the number of flares, etc. were greatly reduced in comparison to the handful of Russian Premier League games I’ve attended. The Moscow derby was a fireworks display indeed. Here’s some video I shot for those interested:

    As you would’ve seen on tv, the security at Spartak games is unreal. Thousands of militzia attend/work these games. They begin en masse at metro stations that are miles away from Luzhniki. It’s a bit daunting at times, especially the first time you attend a game.

  8.   James Baxteron 29 Sep 2010 at 1:15 pm

    As a Zilina regular I naturally focus on them but the conclusions coming through here are right ; Moscow were different class all over the pitch. Perhaps we were naiive to suppose that they ever represented a genuine opportunity to claim an away point or three…

  9.   Alexanderon 29 Sep 2010 at 3:17 pm

    The visual effects and choreography on the stands could have been better, in my opinion. At times, there are also hundreds more flags, as well as a huge colorful banner of some sort, at Spartak games.
    But since all this costs a fortune, the guys must be saving it all for Chelsea, as Russian fans in general see English supporters both as an example to emulate and the rival to subdue.
    More video footage from last night’s game (I personally like the Lambada for the Brazilians) -

  10.   Alexanderon 29 Sep 2010 at 9:13 pm

    Some behind-the-scene moments inside the Luzhniki stadium.

  11.   Moodonthepitchon 29 Sep 2010 at 9:43 pm

    Here’s some video I shot of the first goal last night.

    I still haven’t seen highlights, but the ball was definitely over the line.


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