Archive for September, 2010

Sep 07 2010

Russia 0-1 Slovakia

Published by under International

Slovakia put in an excellent defensive performance in Moscow to record a valuable victory in their European Championship Qualifying Group B match.  They now top the group with 6 points from their first 2 qualifying matches although Ireland will fancy their chances of heading the group above of Slovakia on goal difference as they face lowly Andorra later in the evening.

The atmosphere in this match couldn’t have been more contrasted to that of their first qualifier against Macedonia 4 days earlier at the shabby Pasienky stadium in Bratislava.  Here in an almost full Cherkizovo (Lokomotiv) Stadium, some of the big name players really rose to the occasion.  Maybe this is the environment which suits Slovakia best and they were able to record a result against a notably superior attacking force in Russia.

Slovakia were always going to be defending for their lives in this match, and playing for anything they could pick up on the counter attack.  The goal, when it came on 27 minutes was a combination of a stroke of luck and a stroke of genius.  Russia’s keeper  Akinfeev passed the ball straight to Miroslav Stoch rather than his right-back Anyukov, and Stoch cut inside from 30 yards out eventually unleashing an unstoppable shot from the edge of the box.  You can see the goal here.

Stoch celebrates in style

Slovakia remained fairly comfortable in the 1st half, but you felt sure Dick Advocaat would rally his troops and reorganise things to make the inevitable break-through after the interval.  However the match wore on and although Russia created plenty of chances, Slovakia’s defence remained impenetrable.  This was one of the best performances I have seen from Martin Sktrel and partner Kornel Salata at the back.  The Russia strikers Pogrebnyak and Pavlyuchenko could hardly get a kick.  Some incisive build up from Arshavin and especially Dzagoev kept the supply of chances coming for Russia, along with a couple of penalty shouts.  The Belgian referee wasn’t in the mood to give much though, and some great saves and clearances from Everton keeper Jan Mucha just added to the list of heros for Slovakia.

As the match wore on the Slovak belief grew, and in the end the ‘Repre’ survived the last 10 minutes plus 4 minutes of injury time relatively comfortably.

All round this was an excellent away performance from Slovakia.  While everybody had been talking about Russia as favourites for this match, and Russia being Ireland’s biggest threat in the group, Slovakia have certainly raised a few eyebrows with this result.  Strange how quickly people seem to have forgotten about the World Cup!

Vladimir Weiss got his tactics spot on, made a great decision selecting Karhan as a defensive midfielder, and he got top performances from most of his stars- as mentioned Skrtel, Salata, Mucha and Stoch all more than played their part, and I am sure I have forgotten several others also worthy of a mention – comments welcome!

The whole team did brilliantly, well done Slovakia.  Much credit to the travelling fans as well, who obviously enjoyed themselves immensely despite being seriously outnumbered.  Next match away to Armenia on 8.10 before taking on Ireland in Zilina in what promises to be a great game.

Match Summary (sme.sk)

Rusko – Slovensko 0:1 (0:1)
Gol: Stoch (27′)

Rusko: Akinfejev – Aňukov, V. Berezuckij, Ignaševič (81. Biľaleťdinov), Žirkov – Semšov (60. Bystrov), Širokov, Zyrjanov, Dzagojev – Pogrebňak (71. Pavľučenko), Aršavin

Slovensko: J. Mucha ml. – Zabavník, Škrtel, Saláta, Hubočan – Kucka (58. Jendrišek), Štrba, Karhan (73. Sapara) – Hamšík, Stoch (90. Pečalka) – Hološko

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Sep 06 2010

Update: Tickets Zilina v Chelsea

Published by under European

The shocking story about the scandalous hike in ticket prices for Zilina’s Champions League match is rumbling on and everyday something changes.  Zilina’s management are squirming for 2 reasons:

Firstly the reaction of ultraszilina.sk the main voice of the most loyal and passionate fans was pretty clear and damning towards the club.  You can read their reaction in full here.  So, the club have had to accept that the match will be played without the passionate vocal support of the green and yellow fans behind the goal.  The players have come out publicly expressing their disappointment at the situation, but obviously avoiding direct criticism of any decisions which have been taken.  I guess the club’s owner Antosik would be happy to swallow the state of a few disgruntled fans and even players if he were to get his bumper pay-day however that now also doesn’t seem to be guaranteed.

The 2nd major headache facing the club’s owners is that tickets simply haven’t been selling.  While somebody genuinely believed that they could easily expect to shift 5,000+ tickets priced at €100, €150 & €200, this simply hasn’t been the case.  The club claim they are now reducing the prices, but to me that is not the case.  All that has been done is the VIP seats priced at €200 have been scrapped and are also available for €150.  Also now anyone can buy the seats behind the goal for €50, being a club card holder is not necessary as it was originally.  What the club don’t seem to understand is that this doesn’t make a blind bit of difference!  Forget about the VIPs, ordinary fans are simply not prepared to pay €50!    The only moves the club has made to try to appease fans and make the deal more attractive is to throw in a ‘limited edition Champions League scarf‘ and a ticket for this week’s league match against lowly Tatran Presov (normal price €5-€9).  These strategies are just not working and plenty of tickets remain unsold.  Then the story gets even more astonishing:

I have read a lot about disgruntled Chelsea fans not receiving any information about ticket sales less than 2 weeks before the match.  Well today (6.9) the information has been released.  In spite of the fact that the club are struggling to shift home tickets, they have only allocated Chelsea the standard away section of the ground with just .. 550 seats .. priced at £43!  So here was an opportunity for Zilina to cut their losses, allocate all 2,000 seats behind that goal to Chelsea and probably avoid black market ticket sales – as they claim the original high price strategy intended to do.   Instead they leave Chelsea fans in a mad scrap for tickets – I understand allocation will be based upon points accrued by travelling to Champions League matches last season – and an almost definite influx of black market ticket sales meaning all areas of the ground will be occupied by both home and away supporters!

550 away seats .. £43 a pop

So now as I see it all parties involved in this Champions League match have reasons to be thoroughly p*ssed off.  The players won’t have their loyal supporters, the home fans can’t afford to get in the stadium, the away fans have to resort to black market ticket sales, the club struggle to make the profit they intended, the police have to secure anunsegregated stadium .. the list goes on ..  and makes for sorry reading as far as the organisation of what should have been Zilina’s proudest moment is concerned!

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Sep 05 2010

Slovak Cup Draw

Published by under Domestic

The draw has been made for the 2nd round of the Slovak Cup.  Matches to be played on 21/22 September.  If teams are level after 90 minutes, matches go straight to penalties.

West:
FK Slovan Duslo Šaľa (I. div) – FC Nitra
ŠK Slovan Bratislava – FK Púchov (I.)
FC Petržalka 1898 (I.) – DAC 1904 Dunajská Streda
FK Slovan Nemšová (II.) – FC Spartak Trnava
FC STK 1914 Šamorín (II.) – FC ViOn Zlaté Moravce
TJ Spartak Myjava (II.) – FK Senica
PŠC Pezinok (II.) – ŠK SFM Senec (I.)
ŠK Blava Jaslovské Bohunice (II.) – AS Trenčín (I.)

East:
FK Poprad (II.) – Dukla Banská Bystrica
ŠK Odeva Lipany (II.) – 1. FC Tatran Prešov
FK Spišská Nová Ves (II.) – MFK Košice
MFK Zemplín Michalovce (I.) – MFK Ružomberok
ŠK Kremnička (III.) – MFK Dubnica
MFK Vranov nad Topľou (II.) - MŠK Žilina
ŽP Šport Podbrezová (II.) – MFK Dolný Kubín (I.)
1. HFC Humenné (II.) – MFK Tatran Liptovský Mikuláš (I.)

This is an open competition with plenty of different winners in recent years. The Cup winners gain entry to the Europa League qualifying 3rd round; last season’s cup winners Slovan Bratislava were rewarded with a massive home European match against Crvena Zvezda this season.  The season before, MFK Košice faced AS Roma!

Personally I think this is an interesting competition.  With relatively few professional teams in Slovakia and all teams operating with limited squads and budgets, what often happens is that the teams pushing hard for the Championship or those with European commitments, are over-stretched for mid-week cup games.  This gives smaller teams a real shot at progressing to the cup final to play for entry to European competition.  This has been demonstrated in recent years.

Teams I think will be worth looking out for this season:  Spartak Trnava (desperate for silverware and a return to European football), MFK Ružomberok (slowly making progress with a good youth system and are capable of beating anyone on their day) FK Senica (off to a great start in the league, if they drop away could still be dangerous in the cup).  Outsiders from the 1. Division?  AS Trenčín – unbeaten in 7 games so far this season.

Potential upsets in the 2nd round?  Lots of Corgon Liga teams are away at lower division opposition.  Most should be too strong for the amateur small town teams they are up against.   However Tatran Prešov MFK Košice have been struggling in the league so far this season and face tricky ties against ŠK Odeva Lipany & FK Spišská Nová Ves from the 2nd division.

Having made the statement above about smaller teams having a good chance in this competition, most likely MŠK Žilina will end up winning the cup for the first time in their history, however my money will be lying elsewhere ..

Recent winners:

09/10 Slovan Bratislava

08/09 MFK Koscie

07/08 Artmedia Petrzalka

06/07 ViOn Zlate Moravce

05/06 MFK Ruzomberok

04/05 Dukla Banska Bystrica

03/04 Artmedia Bratislava

02/03 Metador Puchov

01/02 Koba Senec

00/01 Inter Bratislava

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Sep 04 2010

Slovakia 1-0 Macedonia, Match Report

Published by under International

Slovakia left it late, but eventually managed to break down the dogged Macedonian defence to secure a vital 3 points in the first qualifying match for Euro 2012.  Filip Holosko’s goal in the 91st minute sends the Slovaks on their way to a tough away match in Russia with their spirits high.

The match was held at Pasienky stadium, in front of another poor crowd of 5,980 with plenty of empty seats all around the ground.  I don’t think it’s that there is a lack of interest in the team, the real reason for the low crowds in Bratislava is the stadium.  The public really dislike this open arena with low stands and an athletics track which gives an awful view from most parts.  As the winter draws on I don’t expect to see attendances improving, unless the SFZ switch matches elsewhere, Zilina for example.

The first half was a dire affair.  Just one shot on goal was mustered in the whole 45 minutes when the Apoel Nicosia attacker Trachowsky tested Jan Mucha in the Slovakia goal with a stinging shot.  Slovakia huffed and puffed, with Weiss, Stoch & Hamsik busy around the midfield and wings, but with striker and World Cup talisman Robert Vittek out injured, the Slovaks really had no target man.  Take Slovakia’s attacking headaches, add the spoiler tactics from the Macedonians (where at times they were defending with 7 or 8 players in the box) and you have an utterly uneventful first half.

The 2nd half was marginally more exciting, and especially Miroslav Stoch started to show his class and dominate the game.  He had a couple of chances for himself, and created openings which his colleagues really should have done better with.  Especially captain and midfield star Marek Hamsik should have done better with 2 golden opportunities, practically open goals.  Ultimately the Slovak delivery into the box wasn’t good enough, especially from Marek Sapara who seemed to be on free kick duty.  And with no Robert Vittek you would think they could at least land the ball somewhere close to Martin Skrtel, but nothing was working and you sensed Macedonia could even go better than their obvious intention of holding out for a 0-0 as the game became more stretched.  A mistake at the back from Skrtel, lead to substitute Ristic putting Inter Milan striker Goran Pandev clean through on goal, his shot was excellently saved by Everton keeper Jan Mucha and Slovakia breathed again.

5 minutes from time the game really came to life.  The Macedonian right back Vance Sikov was sent off for a mysterious 2nd yellow card.  One I think that was deserved at least for the team’s constant time wasting tactics.  He didn’t like the decision, said something to Miroslav Stoch and then chaos ensued.  The Macedonian coach came storming onto the pitch looking like he wanted to play peacemaker, but was soon following Sikov to the dressing room, the ref red-carding him after he stayed on the playing surface demanding an explanation for the original red.  These scenes really stirred up the crowd and the Slovak team, and finally the break through came when Marek Hamsik broke free down the by-line and sent a ball across the face of goal into the path of Filip Holosko who really couldn’t miss!  1-0 to Slovakia and vital points in a tricky qualifying group which also contains Russia and Republic of Ireland.

Slovakia go to Russia knowing getting anything out of the match there will be a bonus, while the pressure is now all on Macedonia to beat Armenia at home in Skopje on Tuesday night.

Match Summary (www.sme.sk)

Slovensko – Macedónsko 1:0 (0:0)

Gól: 90.+. Hološko. Rozhodovali: Circhetta – Helbling, Hidber (všetci Švajč.). Žlté karty: 81. Škrtel – 54. Despotovski, 66. Šikov, 85. Pandev. Červená karta: 85. Šikov, 5980 divákov.

Slovensko: Mucha – Pekarík (90. Sylvestr), Škrtel, Saláta (76. Kucka), Hubočan – Štrba – Weiss (61. Jendrišek), Hamšík, Sapara, Stoch – Hološko

Macedónsko: Nuredinoski – Šikov, Mitreski, Noveski, Popov – Despotovski (73. Lazevski), Georgievski, Šumulikoski, Tričkovski (80. Grnčarov) – Pandev, Naumoski (61. Ristič)

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Sep 02 2010

Zilina v Chelsea ticket scandal; fans fight back!

Published by under European

As described in my previous blog post, MSK Zilina stunned not only their own fans but also a much wider football community by announcing scandalous ticket prices for the Champions League match at home against Chelsea on 15th September.

The response to this story has been widespread and passionate, obviously a marker of the impact that the scandal has on the average football fan.  Many thanks to everyone for promoting & retweeting to help us spread the word. Especially thanks to new friends at Unprofessional Foul for bringing the story to an ever wider audience.  It has been amazing to see people reacting so vocally and with comments along the lines of “not just UK footy fans getting ripped off” – @escafeld67, it is clear that this has struck a chord across European football.

However, the response in Slovakia has been nothing short of astonishing.  The story is right across the mainstream news and emotions are running high:

After the ticketing information was released on the official Zilina website, the main ultras group were quick to spread the word around the internet forums that individuals should wait for the official response from ultraszilina.sk before reacting.  This is a summary of what they came up with:

A kidney for 2 tickets:

We understand that football is business, but the most important thing to us is that football should be shared with people, football is not purely a commercial enterprise.  Everyone knows these ticket prices are high and we also realise you will sell the tickets and make a lot of money but …

it has not been just 1 week, not just 1 year, but for a whole lifetime we are looking forward to a match like this one.  We as loyal fans of Zilina, give our money not to see Chelsea, but to see our beloved Zilina, we go to every match, we are the ones who give €7 to support the team through every minor league game.  We travel many kilometres, we come from throughout Slovakia, and we were ecstatic to share the joy of Champions League qualification with the players.  Upon receiving the information about the ticket prices we realise that we as fans will only be able to watch from outside the stadium gate.

We know that the stadium will be full of rich people from Slovakia and surrounding countries.  But is this right for spectators to be present who have not spent a single cent on our club for the whole season?  Is this right for the players who have given so much to play the hardest match of their lives without any passionate support?  Most of us cannot afford these tickets, and those that can find the money feel so disgusted by the way they have been treated that they simply won’t buy tickets as a matter of principle.

We realise what the club is doing here, and we will swallow it, but we will not forget it.  The club should never again be surprised if attendances are lower at league games.  The worst thing about this whole situation is that the group who will pay the most are the ones who deserve it the least; the players.  We don’t know who will spur them on, who will give their hand through the fence after the game.  Will anyone in the stands even know the names of our players?  Is this what the players who got us to this stage really deserve?

This story is all over the news.  Everybody is laughing at MSK Zilina.  This should be the biggest celebration of our footballing success, but in fact we all feel really awful, thank-you.

p.s.  We are not preparing any choreo for the match, there won’t be any organised support, not because we don’t want to do it, but simply because nobody will be inside the stadium to wave the flags and sing the songs.  We won’t ask for cheaper tickets, we have our pride.  How we will watch this match will be announced later, one thing is for sure, we will enjoy ourselves!”

"We're looking forward to your attendance at our CL game", Zilina Management

Interestingly, the homepage is now headed with the “Against Modern Football” video .. a statement which is becoming more and more widespread throughout European football.

I would like to thank www.ultraszilina.sk for providing the content of this blog post, I trust they don’t mind me translating their words. I think their message is powerful and will be well received with a great deal of sympathy throughout a wide community of football fans.

http://www.ultraszilina.sk/1908/index.php/zilinski-fanatici-aktuality/513-za-oblicku-2-listky-na-chelsea

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