Archive for November, 2010

Nov 29 2010

Zilina 1-1 Trnava: An exciting conclusion to the Autumn Season

Published by under Domestic

This match provided something the Slovak football league could do with a lot more of – enjoyment, excitement and entertainment!  James Baxter was there and talks us through a good afternoon for Slovak football both on and off the field:

Well, that was a game that justified its billing. It had something for everyone. Cerebral types who get a kick out of tactical sophistication would have enjoyed it, as would those who like their thrills and spills. The fact that there were just two goals didn’t spoil it and, even as a Žilina season-ticket holder who has no great love for Trnava, I wasn’t that upset by the result. These were two sides who badly wanted a result and played with commitment, skill and intelligence in pursuit of it. Trnava played a full part and, even if they did get the benefit of one or two debatable decisions, it would have been harsh on them if they’d lost.

Both sides started with a 4-1-4-1 formation. Žilina’s showed just one change from the Chelsea game with Rilke replacing Majtán on the right of midfield. The visitor’s most dangerous players going forward were Bernáth and Koro-Kone. Bernáth, playing the lone striker role, is perhaps the most unlikely looking footballer in the entire Corgoň Liga. He resembles less a professional sportsman than a pre-pubescent kid who eats too much chocolate and will never have to shave. Speed and athleticism are, needless to say, not his strong points but he does have wonderful close control. This enables him to hold the ball up-front and occasionally draw fouls from impatient defenders. There were suggestions that Gergel’s challenge on him in the area after 17 minutes of today’s game was not a foul but a penalty was given and Koro-Kone made no mistake. Koro-Kone was often troublesome to Žilina thereafter with his pace and skill. In fact, it is to Trnava’s overall credit that, unlike some sides who take the lead (or even maintain a 0-0 scoreline), at pod Dubňom, they never allowed the game to become Žilina’s attack against their defence.

Pavel Hapal made an interesting change after 55 minutes or so, taking off Guldan, the holding midfielder, and sending Majtán on to join Oravec up front. Bello retreated slightly so that the formation became 4-1-3-2. Ceesay too made an appearance, in place of Rilke, as, with time ticking away, the home side threw everything forward. The last 10 minutes or so were dramatic. First, Oravec scored a scrappy equaliser ; there was no telling whether it was his head, face, chest or shoulder that propelled the ball over the line. Then a long ball into the area caused panic in the Trnava defence, Oravec was pulled down, the ball broke loose and Angelovič smashed it into the net. ‚Goal!‘ we thought, ‘we’re going to win after all.’ ‘No,’ said Mr Matuš, the referee, ‘it’s a penalty.’ No’one in the crowd had heard the whistle go but presumably it had and, by the letter of the law, the goal probably could not be allowed. Oravec’s spot-kick hit the post, then hit the keeper on the back, and almost, but not quite, trickled over the line. Seconds later, a wonderful breakaway move came agonisingly close to producing a winner for Trnava. Finally, as added time approached, one of the game’s most intriguing personal duels reached an unsavoury climax. Trnava defender Diallo swung an arm, Oravec went down – rather theatrically it has to be said – and Mr Matuš waved the inevitable red card in Diallo’s direction.

I can’t see this as a bad result for Žilina, given that they remain six points clear at the top of the league. It was a hard game and they were behind for most of it against well-organised, highly-motivated opponents. Trnava looked a good side and cannot be completely counted out of the title race but I suspect they lack a little craft in central midfield. This might be what tells against them when they fail to break teams down on their own ground and, even in today’s game, one or two promising moves broke down for want of the right final pass. If they had Robert Jež, or a player like him, they would be formidable challengers.

One thing Trnava do have, of course, is their fans. 700 or so of them travelled today and  contributed to a vibrant atmosphere. In fact, the day’s biggest paradox could be found off the field. Whenever Trnava visit Žilina, ridiculous numbers – some 500 or so – of police and security officers have to be on duty, mostly to keep the main body of away fans apart from the home contingent. The official capacity of the Štadión pod Dubňom’s away section is 550 and, for a game like this it is heavily segregated. Yet many Trnava fans, some of them sporting colours, had travelled independently of the fan club (or ultras group) and were allowed to mix freely with the Žilina fans, both inside and outside the ground. Around 100 or so visitors were in Block C of the South Stand, next to the official away section but not segregated from the Žilina supporters in Block B. Pockets of away support were present in the main stand too. Naturally, this caused no problems at all. I’m not sure there are any conclusions to be drawn here but I do sometimes think that there is an untold story where Slovak football fans are concerned. I know from personal experience that I can happily sit among the season-ticket holders of clubs like Dubnica or Ružomberok and get behind Žilina. It was nice to see that many Trnava fans could do something similar today. In fact, given the opportunity, most fans in this country are clearly able to mingle with opposition supporters and cheer on their team without intimidating anybody. Perhaps if that decent majority could somehow become more prominent and vocal, the less acceptable face of Slovak fan culture , ie hooliganism, would find itself undermined. After all, line upon line of armoured law-enforcers is not only an unpleasant sight, it isn’t even the long-term answer to the hooligan problem.

In conclusion, then, plenty of interest both on and off the pitch. A lot to feel positive about, in fact. Not a bad way for the Slovak League to round off 2010.

An interesting photo gallery of the Spartak Trnava fan’s big day out can be found here.

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Nov 28 2010

Slovakia Into the Winter Break

Published by under Domestic

Suddenly the winter break is upon us, and we’ve now got to imagine the next 12 weekends without any domestic football in Slovakia.  Not to worry, we’ve got some good stuff planned for the blog over the next few weeks and perhaps the winter break is coming at a good time (for some clubs at least).

Slovan Bratislava at least managed to score for the first time in over 350 minutes of league football on Saturday against FK Senica, it’s unfortunate that the 2 goals (scored by internationals Sebo & Salata) were needed to comeback from a 0-2 half time deficit.  At least the 1070 hardy souls who turned up for the match had some action to get excited about although the match was played in an eerie atmosphere on a bog of a pitch.   They must have been wondering after Slovan’s last 3 matches ended in 0-0 draws.  Personally I’m disappointed that Slovan have drawn their 5th match in a row, and their 5th place position sums up a highly unsatisfactory first half of the season.  They really need to turn things around over the winter break to get back in the race for European qualification.

Given that Slovan’s arch-rivals Spartak Trnava are the team directly above them in the table, and these 2 teams face each other on the first match back after the break, the motivation should still be there for coach Karel Jarolim to turn things around.

Zilina and Trnava drew 1-1 in a match which sparked into life in the last 15 minutes in front of the biggest crowd of the week (4723), although plenty of empty seats were still evident at Stadion Pod Dubnom.  As expected the crowd was swelled by a large travelling contingent who arrived on a special football train from Trnava.  Minor skirmishes with the police have been reported, although 3 arrests out of a travelling crowd of around 500 is actually not that bad.  A well organised Trnava side took the lead in the first half through a penalty from Ivorian Issa Kone.  Zilina came back into the match in the 2nd half and equalised through a goal bundled in off Tomas Oravec’s chest (his 11th of the season).  Shortly after, Zilina were awarded a penalty in a controversial incident where they actually scored from the ensuing play.  The ref stuck to his guns though and the whistle had been blown before the goal was scored.  So up stepped Oravec, slammed the penalty against the post, the rebound hit the keeper and was somehow saved just short of the line.  A lucky escape for Trnava and the last few minutes were end to end, even they could have sneaked a winner in front of the travelling masses.  In the end a draw was probably a fair result here, although it is not the upset the rest of the league may have been hoping for.

Zilina are 6 points clear of 2nd place Senica who held their own well in recent weeks.  Dukla Banska Bystrica have turned around a sluggish start to the season and after 3 wins in a row find themselves in 3rd place.   The latest 1-0 victory over a struggling Ruzomberok provided their 4th clean sheet in a row.

Slovan were lucky not to be overtaken by Zlate Moravce and DAC Dunajska Streda who both failed to perform to their full potential in winnable home matches.  Zlate Moravce were beaten 2-1 by FC Nitra, their first win in the league since early October.  DAC will be really disappointed not to have scored against bottom of the table MFK Dubnica, 0-0 in front of 3173 fans desperate to get the win which would have seen DAC leapfrog Slovan in the table.  This type of result sums up the Corgon Liga for me, whenever one of the mid-table teams goes on a bit of a run of form, eventually inconsistency slips in and they just fall away again.  Looking at the table going into the winter break, I suppose the only team who may raise a few eyebrows are FK Senica, so credit to them.

MFK Kosice hammered Tatran Presov 4-0 in the Eastern derby on Friday night, recent wins for both those teams see them level in 10th and 11th on 17 points.  Dubnica enter the winter break on 15 points and one hopes they will survive and be back for their next fixture against Kosice on 26th February.

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Nov 26 2010

Zilina v Trnava Preview

Published by under Domestic

There are a couple of big games this weekend, I know I say it a lot, but in a league containing only 12 teams interesting games do come around quite often.  Kosice have hammered Presov 4-0 this afternoon in the derby of the East, those 2 are now level on points, but luckily for both of them, Dubnica seem to be slipping away at the bottom.

At the top, as discussed by James Baxter in this excellent preview piece, Zilina face Trnava in a clash which may go a long way towards telling how interesting the 2nd half of the season will be.  Fireworks are virtually guaranteed off the pitch, but will we be lucky and see some on it too?  Enjoy!

In Autumn 2008, MŠK Žilina coach Dušan Radolský was attempting to balance domestic and European demands. His team was in a battle with Slovan Bratislava for leadership of the Corgoň Liga, as well as appearing alongside Slavia Prague and three former European Champions (SV Hamburg, Ajax Amsterdam and Aston Villa) in the UEFA Cup group stage. Radolský’s Žilina were competitive, and occasionally inspired, in Europe. They ran Hamburg and Ajax close and pulled off a stunning 2-1 win at Villa Park. Domestically, though, a late November six-pointer at Tehelné pole was lost, ensuring that Slovan would go into the winter as Slovak league top-dogs

Two years on and Pavel Hapal, Radolský’s successor, is  in a largely similar situation. But, while Hapal’s team have often looked out of their depth in the Champions League, the coach has, last Friday’s defeat away to Senica excepted, proved able to lift them sufficiently for Slovak league games. Whatever happens in this weekend’s final round of fixtures, Žilina will spend this winter at the top of the domestic table.

Comparisons between Radolský and Hapal will come into sharper focus this Sunday as Radolský, sacked by Žilina in the spring of 2009 as it became clear that Slovan were not going to be caught at the top of the league, brings his current charges, Spartak Trnava, to the Štadión pod Dubňom. It should be an interesting occasion. Radolský has more than once expressed a belief that his dismissal by MŠK was premature. He will insist that revenge will not be a motivation for him on Sunday but he will certainly have Trnava fired up. The visitors will be well-backed off the field too ; it won’t be a surprise if their fans fill the pod Dubňom’s away section. And, while Žilina’s top-of-the-table position is safe for the next three months, a home defeat would cut the gap between them and Trnava to five points. That would represent not only a significant loss of momentum for Žilina but also a renewal of Trnava’s own hopes of making a serious championship challenge come 2011.

From a Žilina point of view, a lot will depend on how much they still have to give following their latest Champions League defeat, at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday. Their performance in that game was one to feel positive about. They defended bravely and diligently and, in the first half at least, were both attractive and effective going forward. If a better-worked goal than Bello’s is scored anywhere this season, I’d love to see it. The result was still a defeat, though, and the players will have to overcome what would be an entirely understandable sense of deflation before facing Trnava. If they are still feeling sorry for themselves come Sunday, I sense that Trnava might well be equipped to take advantage.

As far as Žilina’s team selection goes, if bodies and minds are in good order, I would play the same starting line-up as the one which appeared at Chelsea. I rather like the 4-1-4-1. Guldan has settled nicely into the holding midfield role and his performances there are starting to stand comparison with those of former captain Zdeno Štrba. Jež and Bello play with freedom when Guldan (or someone like him) is behind them and their attacking inclinations mean that Tomáš Oravec gets good support up front. The one reservation I have over the formation is that it doesn’t bring out the best in Tomáš Majtán. Majtán has many qualities but, if played as a wide midfielder, he lacks a trick to get him past a tight marking full-back. At Stamford Bridge, a large part of his role was defensive so that didn’t matter too much. Against Trnava, more attacking inspiration will be needed from whoever plays down the flanks.

In late August, when Sparta Prague had been defeated to ensure Žilina’s passage to the Champions League proper, it would have been impossible to write a paragraph based entirely on the MŠK team which did not feature the name Momodou Ceesay. Just three months later, few would argue that the Gambian is even close to deserving a place in the side. He seems to have lost his touch, his strength, even, alarmingly, his motivation. When Oravec came off on Tuesday night, having struggled to get hold of the ball as Chelsea staged a second-half recovery, I was hopeful that Ceesay, the substitute, might show some signs of his remarkable late summer form. All he did was make you wish Oravec could come back on. Whatever Ceesay needs, whether it’s winter sunshine or extra training, I hope he will get it over the next two or three months and return to action in February rejuvenated. Meanwhile, I’d be surprised if much is seen of him this Sunday.

I’m not familiar enough with the Trnava team to discuss their likely line-up or tactics. They didn’t impress very much when I saw them draw 0-0 with Zlaté Moravce last month and their recent record at Žilina is poor. The last time they visited, in April, a truly abject display saw them lose 5-1. But none of that should be taken as a guide. With Radolský in the away dug-out and plenty for both sides to play for, I’ve a feeling that Sunday’s game could be one of the best of the season so far.


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Nov 25 2010

SFZ leave Slovan Bratislava’s stadium plans in disarray

Published by under Domestic,International

Observers of european club or international football must have noticed that something isn’t quite right in Bratislava – capital city of the Slovak Republic, European Union member since 2004.  This week, the Slovak Football Association (SFZ) have thrown another massive spanner in the works of Slovan, Bratislava’s main club.

Almost all the stories we have posted related to either Slovan Bratislava or the Slovak National Team have featured an inevitable, almost unavoidable mention of the substandard nature of the Pasienky stadium,  the ‘temporary’ home of football in Bratislava.  Pasienky is situated in the shadows of Tehelne Pole, historical and spiritual home of the National Team and Slovan Bratislava and so undesirable is it for fans and players alike, that the National team have taken to playing most of their games elsewhere – in Zilina, or even in Klagenfurt, Austria.

Tehelne Pole has been closed since the end of the 2009 season, the bulldozers were scheduled to get to work in early 2010, preparing the site for the ‘new Tehelne Pole’ which would double up as a National Stadium for Slovakia to be proud of.  The reality is that Tehlne Pole still hasn’t been touched, the condition of the stadium is deteriorating with each passing month, and the funds set aside for the project have long since disappeared, initially reallocated to help flood victims in the East of the country, then apparently not being replaced through change of government priorities.  All this is happening right before the eyes of the fans who adore the place and just less than 100m from the Zimny Stadion, the spectacular, ultra-modern ice-hockey arena which is nearing completion ahead of the 2011 World Championships.

Tehelne Pole - overgrown, crumbling wreck

No wonder Slovan fans are staying away from home games this season and the numbers speak for themselves.  I had been wondering when the capital club would record their first sub-1000 attendance of the season and that happened just this week when just 602 (six hundred and two) people turned up for the cup 1/4 final 2nd leg tie against 2nd Division Spartak Myjava.  For comparison 2,200 attended the 1st leg at the Myjava stadium which is little more than a field with a fence around it, in a town some 30 times smaller than Bratislava.

Slovan will have been relieved to have won that match 2-0 but this is hardly impressive against amateur opposition and their recent league record is a better reflection on the current state of affairs.  5 matches without a win and 314 minutes without scoring a goal leave Slovan in 5th place, with a worrying gap opening up to the 4th place you’d think they’d need to scrape next season’s European qualification.  The fickle nature of the average fan doesn’t help the situation and Slovan find themselves in the proverbial viscous circle with attendances dropping along with their league position.  If results don’t go their way this weekend, both DAC and Zlate Moravce could overtake them and going into the winter break in 7th place would be unacceptable for one of Slovakia’s biggest clubs.  On paper they do have the players (Salata at the back is the only domestic based regular starter for the Slovakia, and Filip Sebo also scored recently against Bosnia to mention just two), but if they fail to secure European qualification this season, one wonders where they destiny of the club may lie.

The dire situation at Slovan has been compounded by the announcement this week that the city of Bratislava have come to an agreement with the SFZ to provide the land for the new National Stadium on the other side of the Danube river, in Petrzalka no less!  No detailed plans have been released yet, but the stadium is expected to have a capacity of around 25,000 and meet all UEFA/FIFA standards for Champions League and International matches [one wonders who will be playing Champions League there].  It appears as though the government have finally realised that Slovakia cannot go on without a National Stadium although we have heard various ‘announcements’ before and I must admit I do concur with the ‘believe it when I see it’ attitude that seems to be coming out in some quarters.

In principle I have no objections whatsoever to a green-field project for the National stadium [my apartment is even situated in Petrzalka] but the point here is what happens to Tehelne Pole and more importantly what happens to Slovan Bratislava?!  Perhaps opinion of those not favouring Slovan will be that they deserve everything they get after Ivan Kmotrik, the former owner of Petrzalka moved there and took most of the good players with him much to Petrzalka’s demise [another vacated stadium and relegation to the 1st Division].  However, the Slovan fans are shocked and highly concerned by this development and it is hard to imagine them travelling to Petrzalka for anything other than a cross-city derby if the newly named FC Petrzalka 1898 do manage to claw themselves back into the Top League of Slovak football.

A Slovan board member has come out with a somewhat desperate and unstructured statement that “as a marketing expert” he understands that Slovan belong at Tehelne Pole and no other option is acceptable.  If the government and SFZ support really does move elsewhere, it seems that Slovan’s board have no other option other than to take care of Tehelne Pole themselves.  Maybe this is the ‘simplification of the situation’ which will provide incentive they need to get the ball-rolling.   If only there was a bit more of a constructive campaign from the fans rather than just staying away and complaining.

Whatever happens [and this story will surely have many more chapters], the Bratislava football merry-go-round continues to revolve. One very realistic conclusion could be that we may not be so far away from another cross-city ‘shift of power’ between Slovan and Petrzalka.  However, I will offer another [very-optimistic] conclusion; while it will definitely take us a while to get there, perhaps Bratislava might eventually end up with 2 decent stadiums and 2 decent football teams – we can but hope!

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Nov 23 2010

Chelsea v MSK Zilina preview

Published by under European

After a brief break on the blog, what better way to get things rolling again than with a preview of tonight’s Champions League match between the English & Slovakian Champions?  Zilina fan and season ticket holder James Baxter is here with his thoughts:

In my MŠK Žilina vs Marseille match report, I wrote to the effect that it was difficult to see what the home club could possibly have gained from the whole, sorry experience. Yet, too late perhaps, one lesson does seem to have been learned ; Pavel Hapal and his players appear to have realised that talking up their chances ahead of that fateful fixture on the rather flimsy basis of a 1-0 defeat in France was not a wise move. In the lead-up to tonight’s game away to Chelsea, ‚keep quiet‘ seems to have become the new Žilina motto.

It would be unfair to accuse Žilina of disrespecting Marseille. At no point before that chastening 0-7 defeat did anyone from the club claim that they were definitely going to win or that Marseille were not a particularly good team. The mistake, such as it was, was simply to express the belief that the game was winnable, indeed that it represented the team’s best opportunity thus far to pick up points. Hapal wondered afterwards what he was supposed to have said. Should he, for example, have offered the view that his team would definitely lose? The answer, nowadays, when every little comment is seized on and manipulated to mean what the media would like it to mean, is probably that it is best to say as little as possible. Make a few respectful comments about how good the opposition are, give the odd, innocuous detail about your own players’ state of health and mind and, when asked for a prediction, say that your side are not the favourites but that they’ll be giving it their best shot. Don’t get noticeably excited or appear too confident.

So, in their previews of the Chelsea game, various Slovak media outlets have featured rather dull interviews with members of the Žilina party as they prepared to leave for London. On TV, Mario Pečalka smiled sheepishly as he said that he wouldn’t be offering any predictions but did add that he was looking forward to playing at Stamford Bridge. Robert Jež, in a brief question and answer piece in Šport, said that only the game itself is important, as opposed to what you say before or after it. Hapal, asked to comment on injuries to various Chelsea players, as well as the likelihood that the home club will probably be offering opportunities to squad members who are not first-team regulars, responded that any Chelsea team is going to have plenty of quality in it. It was all very bland, boring even. But none of it is going to sound foolish later, unlike the words ‘winnable’ and ‘this is our big chance’ when they were requoted after the Marseille game.

Another lesson I sincerely hope Hapal has absorbed is that, at Champions League level, Žilina will not even attain respectability if their strongest possible team is not selected. If risky experiments are tried, as they were against Marseille, humiliation is sure to follow. With this in mind, if the predicted starting XI for tonight’s game as published in Šport is correct, I’ll be happy enough. It’s a 4-1-4-1 line-up with Guldan as holding midfielder, Jež and Bello in the more advanced central midfield slots and Oravec as the lone striker. Majtán is listed as a likely starter but on the right of midfield, where he will presumably attempt to do what Dirk Kuyt often does for Liverpool, ie block the attacking runs of the opposing left-back.

For this game, I’m going to join Hapal and his players in their refusal to make any outright predictions. As a fan you can never ask more of your team that they give every game the best they possibly can. Against Marseille, Žilina‘s team selection effectively meant the game was lost before it even started. Once it did start, the team’s preparation and tactics were exposed as having been inadequate. This time, there’s a slight, but encouraging, sense that the club as a whole is just a little wiser. Nothing incriminating has been said to the press and the right players are likely to be on the field in a sensible formation. Chelsea will presumably be even keener for the win now, given the bad spell they’ve been going through, and would never be unprofessional enough to disrespect Žilina anyway. It will still be a difficult, and probably long, evening for Žilina but I do feel able to express the belief that they will leave London feeling  better about themselves than they did after the Marseille game.

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Nov 13 2010

Zilina v Ruzomberok .. focus on MFK Ruza

Published by under Domestic

Tomorrow Zilina face Ruzomberok in the league.  Zilina fan James Baxter is back, this time, he’s focussing on MFK Ruzomberok, and what a fascinating story ..

In common (I hope) with many football fans, I am something of a list-maker. But one list I have never been able to complete to my satisfaction is ‚best games ever seen in Žilina’. There is no shortage of top five perennials. They incude a thrilling, if controversial, 3-2 league win over newly-promoted Slovan Bratislava in 2006-2007, a joyful 6-1 destruction of supposed title contenders Artmedia later that same season and a tense 2-1 victory, earned with ten men, over Slovan Liberec in UEFA Cup qualifying in August 2008. The problem I have is whether any of these games should take the number one slot because they have an extremely worthy challenger in the form of a match Žilina actually lost, 2-1 to MFK Ružomberok on a spring evening in 2006.

A little background might be useful here. Žilina’s coach at the time was Croatian Marian Vlak. Vlak was loved by the Slovak media, largely for the fascinating insights he was prepared to offer concerning opposition teams ; their tactics, key players, strengths and weaknesses. He occasionally had to be reminded that his listeners would actually rather like to hear about his own side. Sadly, Vlak’s team won fewer matches on the pitch than he won friends in the press-room and, despite plenty of attractive football, Žilina were out of the title race by the time Ružomberok’s visit was due.

Ružomberok, meanwhile, were being run along more orthodox lines. With Trnava and Artmedia, they had formed a top three separated only by goal-difference at the end of the autumn period of 2005-2006 but had been rather written-off as genuine title challengers. Artmedia, as reigning champions, had the winning mentality, it was argued, while Trnava’s large, increasing support would be a major factor in their favour. Few arguments were made to back up Ružomberok’s claim. Yet they had a fine coach, in František Komňacký, and a talented, stable team. Prominent players included current Slovakia internationals Marek Sapara and Erik Jendríšek and Czechs Tomáš Dvorník and Ján Nezmar. The side’s form in early 2006 saw them open up a lead over both Artmedia and Trnava ahead of the Žilina game.

It’s often difficult, when trying to evaluate just how good a game of football was, to separate what actually happened on the field from the atmosphere off it. Certainly the atmosphere at Žilina v Ružomberok was almost unique in Slovak terms since the away following was not only numerically large and extremely noisy but also friendly and peaceful. Unlike when Slovan or Trnava visit Žilina, there was little need for a large, highly visible police presence. Visually, the visiting fans couldn’t be missed either ; almost all of them were sporting the garish orange shirts their side played in at the time.

But, yes, the game was wonderful too. Vlak had his eccentricities but he had his team well-motivated while Ružomberok just seemed to have an irresistible momentum about them. They wouldn’t lose, you felt, however well Žilina played. After 75 minutes of fine-spirited excellence from both teams, it was 1-1. Both sides would settle for that, you felt. Žilina could justifiably claim to have matched the best the league could offer, Ružomberok would still be clear of their pursuers. But, like the true champions they would become, Ružomberok had just that little bit more to give. They turned up the pressure in that final 15 minutes and ultimately scored a winner. A week or so later, they hammered Artmedia 3-0 to effectively secure the championship.

This lapse into nostalgia has been prompted by the fact that Ružomberok visit Žilina again tomorrow. Little is expected of them this time. A disappointing start to the season saw them dispense with coach Ladislav Jurkemík and replace him with Goran Milojevič. The latter’s first game in charge, at home to Košice last week, ended in a 2-2 draw. Perhaps the most striking thing, though, was the sub-1,000 attendance. Clearly, things aren’t right at Ružomberok and it’s not easy to work out why. Personally, while I didn’t expect a title challenge from them this season, I did think they’d be worth watching. In July, I saw them play a friendly against Leeds United. Fair enough, friendlies are a notoriously unreliable guide and, yes, Leeds were at the very beginning of their pre-season preparations but Ružomberok looked a decent outfit. Certainly, in playmaker Tomáš Ďubek and winger Ján Chovanec, they had two very impressive individuals. Ďubek has been injured since which is, perhaps, one reason for the side’s poor form.

All in all I don’t expect tomorrow’s game to challenge at the top of my ‚best games seen in Žilina’ list. Frankly, given what this season has so far offered entertainment-wise, I’ll be happy if it doesn’t join the recent 0-0 draws here with DAC and Senica in the hit-parade of worst games. 2-1 to Žilina would do nicely.

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Nov 12 2010

Matchday 16 + Predictions

Published by under Domestic

We recently teamed up with the excellent Slovak Daily to bring a bit of fresh footballing input into their excellent online news site.  The Daily does a great job of presenting important stories in the Slovak news in the English language and is well worth a read.  I believe there was a big gap in the ‘market’, and John Boyd and his team are doing a good job of filling it.

Each week I try and get a quick preview and / or review of the Slovak league games written and shared with The Daily.  This week, by popular request, we’re going to have a shot at some predictions too!

DAC – Trnava

This game is kicking off on Friday at 17:00 possibly due to security reasons.  Both teams are on long unbeaten runs and the question is whether something will give in Dunajska Streda.  It’s a tough one to call, and for that reason I’ll go for a draw:

Predictions:

Dan: 1-1

James: 1-1


ViOn – Dukla

2 teams level on points in 5th and 6th place, perhaps Dukla the side which are showing the slightly better form at the moment.  ViOn are having problems scoring goals and it’s hard to identify exactly where are Dukla’s strengths and weaknesses after they drew their last 2 games 3-3 and 0-0 against Zilina and Slovan respectively.  It would be easy to go for a draw here, but I’ll stick my neck out and go for an away win – just a gut feeling based on recent form – ViOn lost their last 2 games against Nitra and Tatran (both away) however their home form is slightly better.

Predictions:

Dan: 1-2

James: 2-1


Kosice – Senica

For several weeks already I have had this feeling that Senica would fall away from their current lofty position but they are still there determinedly holding on to 3rd spot level with Trnava.  They lost a couple of games in October, then recovered slightly with 2 draws and a win from their last 3 matches, but what this means is hard to say – the strength of their opposition in these games hasn’t been great with the exception of DAC, but those 2 teams’ friendly relationship suggested the draw suited everybody that night!

If this match had been a couple of weeks ago I would have no hesitation in backing Senica, purely due to the horrendous start to the season by Kosice, however the 2nd city team are showing signs of life now and have moved off the bottom following a win over Nitra and a draw at Ruzomberok.  The bookies are also really unsure on this one with both teams getting almost identical odds of around 2.6 for the win.  Am I allowed to say this is another really tough one to call?!  I think most of them are this week – but once again I’ll stick my neck out and go for Kosice.

Predictions:

Dan: 2-1

James: 1-1


Dubnica – Presov

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any harder, up pops another really tricky match to call!  This is actually a really important match at the bottom of the table, a real relegation ’6-pointer’ !  You fear for Dubnica both on and off the pitch at the moment, and it’s interesting to see them installed as favourites for this match.  This time I’m going to go for a draw again .. the Corgon Liga does get more than it’s fair share of draws!

Predictions:

Dan: 1-1

James: 0-1


Slovan – Nitra

Well, this time Slovan have to win and they have to win in style.   The team from the capital have been struggling in the goalscoring department of late but this match against a Nitra side who have been slipping down the table after 3 defeats on the bounce should really offer Slovan an opportunity to get back on track.  Zilina are starting to disappear over the top of the hill but 2nd place is still a realistic target for Slovan if they get a decent run of form together.  This is the weekend to start it and I think they just might ..

Predictions:

Dan: 3-0

James: 4-0


Zilina – Ruzomberok

Zilina are 6 points clear and I wouldn’t be surprised if that becomes 8 this weekend if my predictions for Trnava and Senica hold true.  Whatever happened against Marseille, Zilina don’t seem to be making any mistakes domestically so it is almost impossible to see beyond a home win here (unless you fancy odds of up to 11.0 on Ruzomberok!)

Predictions:

Dan: 4-0

James: 2-1

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Nov 10 2010

Feyenoord Uit – what is the fuss all about?

Published by under Eredivisie

ADO fans are in the headlines again tonight as they in conjunction with the club, have decided to boycott the away match against Feyenoord.  The boycott is a result of the decision of the Mayor of Rotterdam to reduce the contingent of away tickets to 650 which has led to a 30% price increase on last season.

You can read more about the story on the Eredivisielife blog (which does a great job on keeping us updated on issues in the Dutch game ).

For my part, I am devastated about this.  For those wondering what all the fuss is about, last season ADO equalised in the last minute of injury time.  This video clip gives an idea of the scenes that followed:

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Nov 10 2010

Tehelne Pole: Brickfield We Love You

Published by under Domestic

These are not the best times for fans of Slovan Bratislava.  For home league games, it is a relief that attendances still top 1,000. One of the principle reasons for this is the fans’ bitter dislike of Pasienky stadium, their ‘temporary’ home.  The true home for Slovan Bratislava fans is the currently decaying Tehelne Pole stadium.  It must be quite demoralising for the fans to see nothing being done about the rebuilding of their beloved stadium.  Here is an emotional video from Slovan Bratislava’s loyal fans:

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Nov 08 2010

ADO fans force motorway closure

Published by under Eredivisie

Yesterday afternoon in Den Haag there were unbelievable scenes as hundreds of ADO Den Haag fans turned up at the stadium to welcome the players home from their trip to Ajax.  No away supporters are allowed to travel to this fixture, so ADO fans were left watching at home, in their local pub or in the supporters club at the stadium.  Pre-match odds of 15.00 on an ADO victory were extremely generous and bookmakers may well be regretting that decision after this result. We didn’t exactly see an ADO victory coming, but it is not completely surprising given the recent form of both sides.   I think odds of 15 on a team like Willem II would be fair, but ADO are a team to be reckoned with this season, a statement backed up by their current 7th place in the league with a haul of 21 points in from 13 games. 

 The 1-0 victory to the green + yellows was the first away against Ajax since 1986 and led to celebrations more reminiscent of winning the Dutch Championship.  A potentially dangerous situation with fans on the motorway was very well handled by the police who closed the A4 for around an hour as ADO supporters carrying huge flags mobbed the bus on it’s arrival back in town.   Others (myself included) watched from the motorway bridge and several hundred supporters took over 1 hour to escort the bus the 1km back to the stadium.  This must have caused huge disruption on one of Holland’s busiest motorways, but little did we care!  Apparently Ajax coach Martin Jol was also delayed on his way back to The Hague after the match – happy days! 

In the meantime, hundreds more supporters had arrived outside the stadium and coach John van den Brom and the players were literally mobbed when getting off the bus.  Each player was led into the supporters club and the atmosphere inside was absolutely manic. Players took turns to stand on the bar to lead the singing and you were left wondering what ADO could possibly achieve with such a bond between players and fans.  The club is working hard to improve it’s image but there is still a real passion amongst the fans.  The song ” Wij gaan Europa in” is gaining credibility with each positive result and what a dream it would be for Den Haag to return to European football after years in the wilderness. 

On a Slovak note, Frantisek Kubik, still on loan from Trencin remains a key feature of the ADO starting line-up.  He seems to alternate attacking flanks with yesterday’s hero Wesley Verheok, and although his form in the last couple of matches has dropped, van den Brom is using him as a key part of his tactics and he does pose a constant threat to defenses.  If only he didn’t give the ball away so often!  The passing move leading to Verhoek’s goal was started on the right by Kubik, masterminded by Ricky van den Bergh and beautifully finished by Verhoek.  Kubik has a long way to develop but as long as he keeps offering me beer in the clubhouse he’ll remain a firm Britski Belasi favourite!

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