Jan 26 2011

Lietava v Dosoudil: The Rivalry

Published by at 11:45 am under Domestic and tagged: , ,

Football is a team game but one of its beauties is that the sub-plot of an individual battle can be at least as absorbing as the wider struggle of eleven against eleven. The juiciest personal rivalry in Slovak football is set to resume on April 2nd when MŠK Žilina take on Slovan Bratislava. I’m previewing it now partly because it deserves the build-up and partly because one of the participants has just given a double-page interview to Sport. In the yellow and green corner is striker Ivan Lietava, who has recently signed for Žilina for a third time following an aborted spell with Turkish side Konyaspor. The light blue side are represented by their Czech captain and central defender, Radek Dosoudil.

These are two of the best players in their positions in the Corgoň Liga. Lietava’s goals and all-round play were a major feature of Žilina’s title success last season. He started this season in fine form too, before leaving for Turkey in August. Dosoudil, for his part, won successive championship medals in 2007/2008 and 2008/2009 with Artmedia Petržalka and Slovan respectively. In both those campaigns he formed a near impregnable central defensive barrier with Kornel Saláta. The latter’s recent departure for Russian side Rostov means that Dosoudil will need to get used to a new partner come spring. He will doubtless meet the challenge head-on, just as he meets every on-field one.

What makes Lietava’s battles with Dosoudil all the more fascinating is that the two have much in common, both physically and in their approach to the game. They are big, imposing men, capable of exuding menace. Watching Dosoudil play, I wouldn’t blame an opposing striker for lacking the courage to even go near him. And, for all the critical appreciation of Žilina’s style of football last season, their success owed plenty to Lietava’s ability to intimidate defenders. Such fearsome commitment does, of course, spill over into ill-discipline at times. Dosoudil let himself down this season with a sending-off in the Europa League qualifier with Crvena Zvezda, an incident he now says he very much regrets. Lietava’s lowest moment was when he was suspended for a lengthy period last season after aiming a volley of abuse at a linesman during one game, an episode made more shameful by the fact that he wasn’t actually playing at the time but was warming up while preparing to come on as a substitute. Of course, the fact that both players are prone to such temperamental outbursts makes watching them that bit more interesting.

Lietava and Dosoudil have both been around for a while now but their rivalry has only recently begun to develop. This is largely because Lietava’s career has been rather a slow-burner. He was an unfulfilled talent at Trenčín and Banská Bystrica before his first move to Žilina, in 2007. Between then and being loaned to Denizlispor for the 2008/2009 season, he reminded one rather of Emile Heskey at his most hangdog. His first touch was unsure and he tended to snatch at even simple chances. Sadly, he became a target of criticism from some Žilina fans. On his return to Slovakia, he was transformed. It was as if he’d only just realised that, with his physical attributes and not inconsiderable skills, he could be a very fine striker. The goals began to flow, the fans took to him. Equally importantly, with Dosoudil well-established at Slovan, the real battle could begin.

A picture was published in one magazine (I don’t recall which) last summer, showing Lietava standing over a grounded Dosoudil. It was presented as symbolic of Žilina getting the better of Slovan in the title race but, in fact, the Bratislava side, with two wins out of three, had had the upper hand in the sides’ head-to-head encounters. In the last of those games, won 2-0 by Slovan, Dosoudil had certainly outperformed his man. But last July, Slovan’s visit to Žilina for the second game of the current season saw perhaps the finest installment of this contest so far. Having taken an early lead, Slovan had Marián Had harshly sent off after 25 minutes for the second of two time-wasting offences. They quickly added a second goal, though, and Dosoudil, clearly using his rage at the red card as extra motivation, was magnificent in his efforts to repel the best that Lietava and Žilina could throw at him. There were a number of on-field flare-ups. Lietava and Dosoudil, naturally, were in on every one, eyeballing each other like boxers at the weigh-in on at least one occasion. Tomáš Oravec came on as a half-time substitute and pulled one goal back for the home side. Even so, if goalkeeper Matúš Putnocký had performed his duties to the standard set by his captain, Slovan would have held on. With the final minutes approaching, though, Putnocký palmed a harmless looking shot into the air in front of him and Lietava pounced to head in the rebound.

Dosoudil, though disappointed with the result, claimed afterwards to have relished his tussle with Lietava : ‚He’s a physical player. I gave a lot out and I took a lot back. I enjoyed it and I’m sure the crowd did too.‘ Dosoudil expresses similar thoughts in his interview with Sport. He comes across as self-aware, even self-deprecating in print, especially in his admission that he can be a nutcase on the football pitch. There are no surprises when he’s asked which games he looks forward to most. ‚The ones against Žilina,’ he says, ‘especially when Lietava is playing for them. We’re both mad. We kick each other, we give no quarter, but at the end of the game we shake hands. That’s how it should be.’

To which I say, ‘too right’. Skill, technique and tactics in football are wonderful things but a red-blooded physical battle between opponents with a healthy professional respect for each other definitely has its place. Lietava v Dosoudil is one which, I sincerely hope, has a fine future ahead of it. See for yourself here in Žilina on April 2nd.

James Baxter

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Lietava v Dosoudil: The Rivalry”

  1.   Michal Petrákon 27 Jan 2011 at 10:34 pm

    Very interesting, James. I like Dosoudil, I liked him when he played for Slavia. How they could use him now…
    Ironically, the fact that he received too many red cards was the reason Slavia got rid of him.

  2.   James Baxteron 27 Jan 2011 at 11:51 pm

    He says he regrets those red cards as well. But he isn’t going to change. He’s a pantomime villain for most Zilina fans but I like him too. He’s passionate and full-blooded and he can take back what he dishes out. But if he’s going to concentrate on Lietava, he’ll need a quick, clever partner to cope with young Mr Pich, who looks in fine form.

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