Archive for August, 2011

Aug 27 2011

Plzeň & Trnava’s European Exploits

There are almost too many stories at the moment, aren’t there? Slovan beating Roma, the Europa League draw, Vladimir Weiss Senior’s selection for the Ireland and Armenia games….

During flatter periods, it’s a fair bet that this blog would already have had its ha’penny worth about Viktoria Plzeň’s qualification for the Champions League group stages and Spartak Trnava’s tragic-comic elimination from the Europa League. As it is, let’s belatedly say something about these matters now.

Starting with Plzeň, I’m well aware that sections of the Slovak media have been trying to claim a joint share for Slovakia in the West Bohemian side’s achievement and I hope I don’t appear to be doing the same thing here. Pavel Vrba, the Plzeň coach, mastermind of their success and all-round genius and good guy, is Czech (well, Moravian actually). His first significant honours as a head coach were indeed with MŠK Žilina in 2006/2007, but it was Vrba who took Žilina forward rather than the other way round. Since Vrba, all Žilina coaches have been, and will be, judged against his footballing standards. When you consider that Pavel Hapal never got close to winning the fans’ admiration in the way Vrba did, despite qualifying for the Champions League himself, you see how difficult they have it.

As for Plzeň’s Slovak players, Marián Čišovský has done a good job for them at centre-back. Rather like Slovan’s increasingly impressive Marián Had, ‘Čišo’ was previously known as a marauding full-back – I once saw him score a hat-trick from his right-back position as Žilina won 7-3 in an end of season frolic with Inter Bratislava in 2004-2005 – but appears to have successfully adapted his game under Vrba.

The real reason the Slovak contribution to the Plzeň effort is being trumpeted in these parts, however, is that the goal-scorers in the 2nd leg victory over Odense were Marek Bakoš and Michal Ďuriš. In his Púchov days, Bakoš always seemed to reserve his best performances for games against Žilina. He was strong, quick, held the ball up well and took a mean free-kick. With Pavel Horváth in the team, Plzeň have little need of the last attribute but, as he showed on Tuesday night, Bakoš still finds ways to score  goals just when his team needs them.

Ďuriš, meanwhile, used to be one of a host of promising young forwards at Banská Bystrica. Two of the others, Dušan Uškovič and Róbert Pich are still to fulfil their very obvious talent (the latter is currently providing the Žilina public with excitement and frustration in roughly equal measure) but, under Vrba’s guidance, Ďuriš is well on the way to fulfilling his. As in the cases of Čišovský, Bakoš and Slovan’s Had, you can bet that Weiss Senior has noticed.

So what of Trnava and their Europa League campaign? I would actually argue that their efforts in the early stages of European qualifying were more creditable than Slovan’s. They started, under the cloud of a long-running fan boycott, remember, at the end of June and overcame increasingly difficult opposition in increasingly impressive style before coming up against Lokomotiv Moscow.

Trnava’s performance in the first-leg in Russia, which they lost 2-0, does sound somewhat anaemic and over-cautious but they clearly gave the home leg a real go and, at 1-0 up with 15 minutes to go, appeared to have a real chance of at least earning extra-time. Then goalkeeper Pavol Raška conceded a penalty, converted by the visitors, and was sent off. Though the outcome of the tie was effectively decided at that point, all sorts of shenanigans occurred in the closing moments. Two more Trnava players were shown red cards, along with a Russian, who, apparently unnoticed by the Italian referee, did not depart for the dressing-rooms but stayed on the field to play out the match.

Impressive European support for Trnava

Miroslav Karhan has apparently taken it upon himself to write to UEFA detailing Trnava’s complaints about the refereeing while Pavel Hoftych (a Czech coach whose work, like Vrba’s, could well be worth watching) has given a reflective interview to today’s Šport in which he emphasises that, despite the disappointment of missing out on the group stages, his team’s European experiences have been of great benefit.

My sympathies to Trnava, then, but credit too for an honourable effort. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them do even better in Europe next season. Many congratulations to Plzeň and, as this season‘s true fliers of the Slovak flag, congratulations to Slovan too.

James Baxter

 

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Aug 26 2011

Slovakia squad for Ireland & Armenia

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GOALKEEPERS: Ján Mucha (Everton), Marián Kello (Hearts)

DEFENDERS: Peter Pekarík (VfL Wolfsburg), Martin Škrtel (FC Liverpool), Ľubomír Michalík (Carlisle United), Ján Ďurica (Lokomotiv Moskva), Tomáš Hubočan (Zenit Petrohrad), Marek Čech (West Bromwich Albion), Kornel Saláta (FK Rostov)

MIDFIELDERS: Karim Guédé, Igor Žofčák (Slovan Bratislava), Juraj Kucka (FC Genoa), Miroslav Karhan (Spartak Trnava), Marek Hamšík (SSC Napoli), Vladimír Weiss (Manchester City), Miroslav Stoch (Fenerbahce Istanbul), Róbert Jež (Polonia Warsaw)

ATTACKERS: Stanislav Šesták, Róbert Vittek (MKE Ankaragücü), Filip Hološko (Besiktas Istanbul), Filip Šebo (Slovan Bratislava), Erik Jendrišek (SC Freiburg)

Well, where are the talking points here?  Perhaps Vladimir Weiss has been too busy taking care of business at Slovan Bratislava to consider any surprise selections, but I think this is probably the most unsurprising announcement one could have expected.  Still, that’s fine, perhaps there is finally some continuity in his thought which is essential ahead of two absolutely crucial Euro 2012 qualifiers.

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Aug 26 2011

Europa League Group stage draw

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Slovan will face Paris St Germain, Athletic Bilbao and Red Bull Salzburg in Group F of the Europa League …

My intial reaction – can we swap Salzburg for Austria Wien?!  Of course these draws are never perfect, but on reflection I think Slovan will be happy with that.  PSG are a really interesting proposition this season.  Another potentially flash-point match, although I don’t know if the French travel in numbers.

Bilbao will be a fantastic trip and who knows, maybe a result could be possible against Salzburg.

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Aug 26 2011

WE’VE DONE IT! ROMA 1-1 SLOVAN

Published by under European

Once again I couldn’t watch the match.  Just a few Twitter feeds, for which I am eternally grateful and Livescores.com kept me informed, and once the first Roma goal went in I feared the worse.  But it was said that Weiss had a plan here, and wow, does it seem to have worked.

I honestly thought we had no chance!  I wrote it here on the blog myself, but I’ll be wrong time and time again if this is the outcome!  11/1 were the odds against Slovan progressing from this tie, and who could argue?!  How could a team from the Corgon Liga compete with one of Serie A’s finest?  Well we just did, and I guess the stats won’t tell the story this time.

This is definitely the best result in Slovan’s recent history, and it cannot be coincidence that Vladimir Weiss has just taken over the managerial reigns, what an achievement so soon after taking over.  I knew this squad had potential, and I am sure Roma under-performed and excuses will be made, but what a fantastic reward now to finally qualify for the Group Stages of a major European competition.

The draw is tomorrow, how exciting to think about 6 competitive European fixtures coming up over the Autumn.  Congratulations to Slovan, the team, and the fans, who apparently created a fantastic support down in Rome.  An amazing day for all, I am sure.

If there are comments on the tactics, players, performances etc, I’d love to hear them below.  For now though, I am just loving this result.  Absolutely bloody brilliant Slovan!

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Aug 24 2011

Vladimir Weiss Jr. Is he any good?

Published by under Uncategorized

I’ve been giving a bit of thought to the link Starý Jazvec posted earlier, and which I’ve made more prominent here :

http://thesun.mobi/thescottishsun/sport/spl/3770238/Goram-You-aint-so-great-Vlad.html?mob=1

In summary, the article reports that former Rangers goalkeeper Andy Goram, reacting to Vladimir Weiss Junior’s assertion that manager Ally McCoist hasn’t given him a fair chance at Ibrox, believes that young Weiss might not be as good as he thinks he is. You can, of course, discount Goram’s view. You can discount it because it’s appeared in the Sun, or on the grounds that Goram, a good mate of McCoist’s, is a less than objective judge.

But what if there’s a grain of truth there? Weiss’s club career has hardly taken off yet, with Manchester City, Bolton or, indeed, Rangers. He’s looked exciting at times at international level but it’s two years now since that memorable night when he turned poor old Jonny Evans’s legs to jelly in Belfast. He played well against New Zealand in Slovakia‘s first game of the 2010 World Cup but his influence on the tournament faded after that and his only real contribution to Euro 2012 qualifying so far has been a brilliant goal in a losing cause away to Armenia.

Then there’s something his father, Vladimir Senior, said after Slovan Bratislava could only draw 0-0 at home to Vion Zlaté Moravce on Sunday. ‘My players can’t beat opponents in one-on-one attacking situations,’ lamented Weiss. Then, more relevantly, ‘this isn’t only a Slovan problem. We have the same problem in the national team.’ It’s true that Vladimir Junior is not mentioned specifically here but it does seem that he is implicated in this perceived Slovak failing as much as anyone else. It is of course possible that, in bringing up the subject of the national team, Weiss is trying to deflect attention away from a disappointing Slovan performance. It could also be that, as a wily old campaigner, he is trying to kid Ireland and Armenia into thinking Slovakia are incapable of posing a threat in the forthcoming qualifiers. Or it might be that he is giving his players a metaphorical ‘kick up the backside’ in the belief that they will work on their tricks in the run up to the games. But I think the coach genuinely believes there is a problem here. And the evidence of recent international games rather backs that view up.

I would say that the attacking players Weiss Senior believes should be able to beat opponents are likely to be the wide men (wingers, if you prefer) and those strikers who would count speed and/or trickery amongst their greatest assets. In the national team, these would include (and this is not an exhaustive list) Weiss Junior, Miroslav Stoch, Stanislav Šesták, Erik Jendrišek and Filip Šebo. Weiss Junior, as I’ve said, hasn’t produced a match-winning international performance for two years. Stoch was by far Slovakia’s best player in last September’s games against Macedonia and Russia, as well as in the Armenia defeat, but injuries and off-field indiscipline have kept him out of most of the games since. Šesták’s goals were a major contributory factor to World Cup qualification but, playing mostly out wide since then, he’s been hard-working without producing many moments of inspiration. Jendrišek too is a grafter but you don’t often see him go past players while Šebo, though easily able to get in front of defenders from, say, Dunajská Streda or Andorra, struggles to do the same when up against decent sides.

It is Weiss Senior’s job, of course, to develop his players, those of both Slovan and the national team, individually and collectively. At international level, he has at times been able to win games by ensuring the team are well-organised and a good collective rather than through isolated moments of individual brilliance. He might be able to do the same this month against Ireland and Armenia. But he – and those who support the Slovak national team – would surely be happier if at least one of his players could (re)discover the ability to do to his immediate opponent what young Vladimir did to Evans in September 2009. And if young Vladimir himself could be that player, Andy Goram might have to take back his words of criticism.

James Baxter

 

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Aug 22 2011

Baxter’s back! Zilina 0-1 Trnava

Published by under Domestic

Pre-match

If you leave Slovakia for much of July and August, you have to live with missing out on some of the more important footballing matters of the year. This is only exacerbated when you go to England. To twist what a well-known novelist once said about the USA, ‘go to England and watch foreign football disappear’. It’s true ; absorb yourself in English sports media for any length of time and you could be forgiven for thinking that even ‘big’ leagues like the Bundesliga or Serie A don’t exist. Slovak football, of course, has no chance of getting itself noticed.

So this summer I was away for Slovan Bratislava’s disappointing exit from the Champions League and Karel Jarolím’s sudden replacement by none other than Vladimir Weiss. It’s been known for several months now that Weiss wanted a coaching job with a club to go alongside his work with the Slovak national team but I for one was surprised, and unpleasantly so, when that club turned out to be Slovan. With Weiss in charge there, it’s already hard to see the club losing their grip on the Corgoň Liga, to Žilina or anyone else.

But plenty has gone on at Žilina too. Coach Pavel Hapal lost his job after the club’s first competitive match of the season – an abject 3-0 defeat in a Europa League first-leg tie in Rekjavik. He was replaced by Ľuboš Nosický, a seemingly decent chap who’s been around the Slovak football scene for a while without ever achieving an awful lot. I’m giving him a chance though, since similar things were said about Pavel Vrba when he came to Žilina and look what he did for them – and at where he is now.

Results wise, Žilina just failed to turn the Rekjavik tie around in the home leg and, though they’ve dropped domestic points against sides they would hope to beat, in Trenčín and Košice, went into Sunday’s home game against Trnava with the league’s only unbeaten record. As significant as any of this for me, though, is a piece of news which, even in Slovakia, seemed to be little more than a footnote ; that the club have sold Ľubomír Guldan to Ludogorets Razgrad of Bulgaria. I feel Žilina never quite appreciated Guldan and thus never got the best out of him. I certainly don’t think it was an accident that when he finally played in his preferred holding midfield role in the last two games of last season’s Champions League campaign the team produced its most creditable performances. Able to play in central defence and (at a push) at right-back, Guldan might have been a victim of his own versatility. I fear there’ll be occasions this season when Žilina fans wish he was still around.

Trnava, Sunday’s visitors to Štadión pod Dubňom, have also been having an interesting time of it. Things have moved forward off the field, with the fans agreeing to end their long-standing boycott. On the pitch, the signings of Miroslav Karhan and former Žilina striker Tomáš Oravec will surely prove to be good ones though, going into Sunday’s game, the side seemed to be finding it more difficult to earn good results in the domestic league than during their European adventures.

Post-match

The above paragraphs were written before Sunday’s game. Žilina’s unbeaten league record didn’t survive the evening, nor did the theory that Europa League football necessarily knackers a team out before its next league game. Trnava had a game plan and executed it with diligence and intelligence. In Karhan and Marek Kaščák, they had both a formidable barrier in front of their defence and enough passing quality to retain possession when they got the ball. Žilina went for an unusual solution to their current shortage of central defenders (Prince Ofori has got himelf suspended for six games) by starting with a back three and wing-backs in a kind of 3-5-2 formation. The problem was that there was never enough width going forward. Apart from the opening 10 minutes, when Žilina’s midfield three of Miro Barčík, Peter Šulek and Viktor Pečovský put some sweet moves together, and the odd, isolated second-half flurry, Trnava never looked in trouble. With Oravec on as a second-half substitute, they began to look stronger in attack and finally scored the decisive goal when Patrik Čarnota headed in a left-wing corner.

On this evidence, it’s hard to see a concerted challenge at the top of the league from Žilina.With changes to both team and coaching-staff, they are a club in transition. There are plenty of quality players there but also a few gaps to fill, and Nosický needs time to work out the best ways to make progress. He and the players also need patience from the stands and that’s something that tends to be in short supply here.

That said, Trnava’s goal only underlined the home team’s inability to cause danger from set-pieces. Žilina had enough corners, and free-kicks in promising positions, but did very little with them. Also, in the form of three six-foot strikers, we saw the ‘stick the big boys up front, plenty of long balls forward’ tactic from Žilina once they were behind. Does this ever actually work? Trnava were happy enough dealing with passing moves through the centre of the pitch and were never going to be troubled by anything less subtle than that. Žilina’s best chance of the night – missed by Momodou Ceesay after a brilliant run and cross from Šulek – came after they’d got the ball wide for once, but they didn’t seem to draw inspiration from it.

I don’t particularly mind seeing my team lose and even tactical failings, though frustrating, at least give you material for pub debates. What really made me despair on Sunday, and this seems to have even more relevance given the Slovan-Roma discussion, was the behaviour of some of the home supporters. Žilina, remember, are still under threat of a ground closure following the abandonment of the Slovan match back in April. But much of the chanting at the Trnava game consisted of obscenities directed at the visiting fans and even, unaccountably, at Martin Raška, the away goalkeeper. Just as bad was that the second-half was held up for several minutes after a smoke-bomb was let off in the home end. I for one wouldn’t argue if the authorities do now enforce the closure though somehow I don’t think even that action will make the guilty parties engage the few grey cells they possess. What was it we were saying about things like taking responsibility and having consideration for others?

James Baxter

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Aug 20 2011

Slovan Bratislava 1-0 AS Roma

Published by under European

Well, that is an eye catching scoreline!  I certainly didn’t expect that.  A great result though and Slovan should be proud of this achievement.  I would still be extremely surprised if we survive the second leg, but stranger things have happened than Slovan scoring an away goal, so who knows if things go our way out there, anything is possible.

I can’t really comment on this match as I wasn’t there and I couldn’t watch it.  I know that an attendance of over 10,000 and a great atmosphere were extra highlights from a great night for Slovan.  There were some reports of trouble in the Roma section (not caused by Roma fans), and it is really sad to hear of fans being forced to leave early for their own safety.  I can imagine, but I cannot really judge what happened.  Have I mentioned before that Pasienky is a substandard stadium for big European games, especially with regards to security?  I think I have.  Anyway, I just hope we don’t see serious repercussions either in the form of intimidation of the fans travelling to Rome or punishment for the club.  Time will tell on that one.

On the pitch, I do wonder if this is really a sign of Vladimir Weiss’ tactical genius or if AS Roma turned up with a weakened side, underestimated Slovan slightly and got caught out.  Opinions of those who watched are more than welcome …

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Aug 11 2011

Austria 1-2 Slovakia

Delighted to welcome Kirsten Schlewitz back to the blog with her account of a reasonable night down in Klagenfurt for the Repre:

At around the fifteenth minute of Slovakia’s friendly with Austria on Wednesday night, I was utterly convinced that there was no need to make plans for Poland/Ukraine, and that Brazil in 2014 would be practically impossible. But Slovakia managed to pull out a typical Slovakia win, with the first goal coming through a goalmouth scramble, the second from an offside position. Austria’s goal was a result of, unsurprisingly, a defensive error, and only the offside whistle kept the home side from grabbing a draw in the end. Still, a 2-1 Slovakia win, and a few causes for optimism about this squad.

But let’s start with the weaknesses, shall we? If Vladimir Weiss really wants to take this squad into Euro 2012, he’s going to have to work out a solid defense. The backline looked absolutely disorganized much of the time, and had Austria not had a tendency for shooting just outside the post, this match could have been a disgrace. I’m still uncertain as to why Karim Guédé was playing in central defense, although I admit I don’t actually get to watch much of Slovan – is this common? Even if it is, Guédé looked completely out of his depth, losing the ball with alarming frequency.

I’ve really got no love left for Marek Čech, either. Austria were repeatedly tearing down their right-hand side only to cut in, meeting no resistance from Čech, with Martin Harnik almost laughing as he took shot after shot. Fortunately, as mentioned before, they kept missing by just inches. Unfortunately, the majority of the blame for substitute Erwin Hoffer ‘s goal lies with Čech. In happier news, the Austrians were exploiting the right because they quickly figured out that going up their left side meant they’d have to deal with Peter Pekarík, who wasn’t going to give them any space. Pekarík also looked good going forward, so that’s one plus. Finally, Ľubomír Michalík looked just fine in central defense, which may not sound like high praise, but at least he didn’t screw up enormously.

So that’s the defense. The attack, meanwhile, looked better than I’ve seen it over the past six months or so, although to be fair I didn’t watch the Andorra match, so perhaps it was sparkling then. Surprisingly enough, the attack looked much better in the second half, despite both of Slovakia’s goals coming in the first. Those goals, however, were rather fluky. Juraj Kucka’s opening goal was entirely against the run of play, heading the ball toward the near post from a corner. It just edged past the post and the diving keeper.

The second goal, from Róbert Jež, likely shouldn’t have been awarded at all, as he appeared to be in an offside position. The nifty passing between Vladimír Weiss and Jež in the lead up to the goal was nice, however.

Weiss Senior’s plan really seemed to come together in the beginning of the second half, when Erik Jendrišek came on for Jež. I’m not always the best with formations, and watching on a jumpy stream doesn’t help, so I’m not precisely sure what Slovakia was playing at this time, but the attack flowed much better. Things went downhill a bit in the last 30 minutes, after Austria scored their goal. Rather than focus on defense, Weiss pulled Guédé and put on Filip Šebo, leaving three forwards on the pitch, as well as Weiss junior, Kucka, and Marek Hamšík. It’s surprising, really, that Austria didn’t manage an equalizer.

Speaking of Hamšík, well, I know he’s a hot topic around here. Many believe he doesn’t give enough for his national side, but in this match, he certainly looked as though he wanted a win. Perhaps it’s because he’s not yet tired from domestic play? Napoli just started preseason training a few weeks ago, but Marek looked back to full fitness and eager to play. His passes were a joy to watch, threading effortlessly through the Austrian players. Hamšík even appeared to have been taking lessons from Napoli teammate Edinson Cavani, who tends to run back and defend – I don’t know if I’ve ever seen Marek so far back on the pitch before.

All in all, not the greatest performance from Slovakia, but not disheartening. Kucka was good, Jendrišek is needed, Šebo should definitely be getting more minutes. Weiss junior had a few moments of trickery and pace, although he needs to stop diving as much (he even got a yellow for complaining to the ref after being fouled). And captain Hamšík actually looked like a leader, which can only be a positive sign. This friendly definitely gave Weiss senior plenty to think about in the next few weeks – if he can get the defense sorted, the crucial win over Ireland just might be possible (crossing fingers).

If you don’t already, do follow Kirsten on Twitter

 

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Aug 10 2011

Crazy week for Slovan!

Published by under Domestic,European

Regular readers may be wondering where is the response to what has been a highly eventful week by Slovak football standards, especially for Slovan Bratislava.  Well Britski Belasi went on holiday last Friday, and what a day to be travelling!  After 10 hours in the air, upon reconnecting with the world through Vancouver Airport Wifi with a slightly out-of-sync body clock, I really had a shock with the news on my timeline.  Thanks to all for the updates, by the way!

Well, I knew I’d miss the Europa League draw, and I also knew we would most likely be given a tough opponent, but I honestly hadn’t reckoned with being paired against AS Roma!  My reaction to this draw is very mixed.  Obviously the plum tie should generate another special night at Pasienky, and Rome is also a feasible destination for the fans to travel on what should be a thoroughly enjoyable trip.  I just can’t see any way we will have a chance against a top Serie A side.  Which is a pity, because after the disappointment of the APOEL defeat, one thing that was evident is that we are definitely lacking European experience.  I really hoped we could get to the Europa League group stages where another 6 matches would potentially give us invaluable experience for any potential future attempts at Champions League qualification.  MSK Zilina proved the value of competitive European experience by benefiting from good runs in the Europa League in the 08/09 and 09/10 seasons to help them achieve qualification for the CL in 10/11.  Unfortunately the task which faces Slovan is a massive one, 6.15 the latest odds on a home-win in the first leg and you can get 10.00 on Slovan progressing to the next round.  Basically, it ain’t going to happen.

Anyway, aside from the difference in class between the teams, it is a very attractive tie for fans wanting to travel.  Let’s hope Slovan make the most of it, and that the team and the fans perform admirably in both legs.  I got lucky with the APOEL home match, but I won’t be able to make either of the Roma fixtures, so any readers planning on attending either leg, please do let me know!

There was no time to digest the Roma story before another even more eye-catching headline came before my eyes.  Vladimir Weiss already announced as new Slovan coach!  I really didn’t see that coming, but having had time to think about it, I think it could be a great move by Slovan.  The Jarolim rumour had only surfaced on the day of the APOEL game, and from the tone of my previous blog post, you can tell I wasn’t happy about it, but this is one outcome I can live with.

You can’t really blame Jarolim for taking the offer of big bucks out in Saudi, I just wish the timing had been different.  I really feared that a Champions League exit, the coach departing, Sebo noticeably arguing with fans on his way to the dressing room after the APOEL defeat, could all culminate in a sudden massive change for the worse at Slovan, but announcing Weiss is a massive step to keeping the ‘ship’ on a straight course.  He should be fully respected by the players, most of whom will want to impress to enhance their National Team chances ahead of huge Euro 2012 qualifying games and, looking forward, the next World Cup campaign.  I don’t see any reason why he can’t double up as Slovan and Slovakia coach.  We already know Weiss was linked with a move to Legia Warsaw earlier in the year, but surely staying in Slovakia is much better for all involved.  He can keep a really close eye on the Slovan ranks and the Slovak league in general, while his scouting team will continue to monitor most of the squad who are playing elsewhere.   The assistant coaches remain in place, so hopefully business will continue as normal for Slovan in the next few weeks.

The other massive boost after the appointment of Weiss was the victory over Spartak Trnava.  Having had only a couple of days to get the squad ready after the Champions League disappointment, this was a very risky fixture for Slovan.  I heard they didn’t play particularly well, and Trnava were distinctly hapless in defence, but at least the 3 points were secured here which keeps us in touch with the early pace-setters in the league.  Weiss picked 2 strikers, something Jarolim really should have done 4 days earlier, and once again Juraj Halenar scored.  It might not be too long before we are singing “Halenar-gol”, but let’s hope he and Filip Sebo can start to form a consistent and reliable strike partnership.  There should be plenty of goals for Slovan if that happens.

So there we have it; elimination from the Champions League, paired with AS Roma, a new coach and victory in the local derby, quite an eventful week to say the least!  Up next for Slovan, a trip to Dukla Banska Bystrica who have won their last 3 matches and sit level on points with the Champions.  At least for once, Slovan will have had a full week without European distractions, it should be a very interesting fixture.

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Aug 04 2011

Slovan 0-2 APOEL; too many questions, not enough answers

Published by under Uncategorized

I am gutted.  Tonight I am going to express my feelings immediately after the match.  APOEL thoroughly deserved to win but there were some things that really need explanation.  Normally I would wait until the next day before posting but this is wrangling too hard to simply ‘sleep on it for a night’.

There were 2 different headlines today in the Sports columns; yes, a big focus on the Slovan-APOEL match, but also the story of Slovan’s coach Karel Jarolim leaving Slovan for Saudi Arabia. WHY THESE TWO STORIES ON THE SAME BLOODY DAY???   A friend asked on twitter if there was any truth in the Jarolim rumour.  Naively I  said I thought it would depend largely on the outcome of tonight’s match.  RUBBISH!  Of course not, Jarolim’s head was already counting the dollars way before kick off tonight.

I am so disappointed.  We built ourselves up for this and we had no chance of ever winning. Tactically Slovan were totally inept.  We gifted this to APOEL, who, it must be said were totally in control at all times.  I have no real problem with the selected starting line-up for Slovan, although I would never play Stepanovsky in a more advanced role than Bagayoko down the same flank.  Anyway, play like they did in the first half; no problem, it worked, we were 3/4 of the way there, but what the hell were we doing in the 2nd half???

How on earth can you continue to play Sebo as a lone striker when you’re obviously creating no chances?  I wrote in my preview piece how Halenar has found some form recently, but why was he not brought on tonight?  There is no way you’re ever going to win a match like that playing a lone striker [Sebo] upfront, it was so blindingly obvious.  I have no real criticism of any individual players, just the coach and the tactics.  Milinkovic came on too late, Guede started playing an advanced role, WHY????  Play a proper player in a proper position.It all went wrong within the space of 5 minutes.  The goal, I remember being a mistake from Stepanovsky [again] and moments later, Erik Grendel sent off for a 2nd yellow.  No complaints about that, it was rash, naive, actually downright stupid from Grendel to make such a challenge, but he’s young and he will learn.  BUT after the sending off, Jarolim changed NOTHING!!! This was ridiculous, we were 0-1 down, playing with 10 men and still Filip Sebo was chasing defenders arses from left to right, back and forth.

I wrote in my preview that I had no doubt Slovan would get their chances.  RUBBISH!  Slovan didn’t have one significant chance in the whole match, this was really awful.  Karim Guede had a feeble shot on goal from 30 yards which I honestly remember as being Slovan’s first attempt on target.   That was well into the second half. Jiri Kladrubsky, what was going on?

The atmosphere was good.  Credit to APOEL. Credit to Slovan; the fans didn’t stop singing all night.  The official attendance was over 9,000.  This was a proper European night.  Unfortunately though, tactically, Slovan looked like complete amateurs, Karel Jarolim, enjoy the money in Saudi, but you really should have a lot to answer for.  WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING???

Quote: Filip Sebo, forward Slovan: “First I want to thank the fantastic audience. At the same time, I have to say that [in] Europe [you] simply can not play only one striker. There is no point in deluding ourselves as APOEL confirmed that their class is better.

Good luck to APOEL fans

Slovan did well too...

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