Sep 18 2011

Ružomberok 1-2 Žilina

Published by at 10:01 am under Domestic and tagged: ,

My requirements for a good away trip with Žilina are not too exacting. They are a straightforward journey to the venue and back, plenty of cover should it be needed and reasonably friendly locals. Ružomberok satisfies all of these, so Saturday’s visit to our friends from the Liptov region was one to look forward to.

Loving setting, lovely day. It's time for Ruza away!

There are two good reasons for Žilina fans to quite like Ružomberok. One is that, besides Žilina themselves, they are the only provincial, non-Ivan Kmotrík club to have won the Corgoň Liga in the past decade. They did it with their fantastic, but sadly one-off, 2005/2006 side, which, with Marek Sapara, Erik Jendrišek and Igor Žofčák in the ranks, proved much too good for nearest challengers Artmedia and Trnava.

The current ‘Ruža’ coach Ladislav Jurkemík also maintains the respect of those of a yellow and green persuasion, having transformed Žilina’s disappointing winter 2003 form into a sprint to the title the following spring. Personally, I will always associate Jurkemík with the then little-known Stanislav Šesták, who arrived at Štadión pod Dubňom in February 2004 and immediately began to terrorise Corgoň Liga defenders with his speed and ability to score goals from just about anywhere. While Róbert Jež is the best and most consistent player I’ve seen in a Žilina shirt, Šesták is the most exciting and Jurkemík is the coach who first utilised his potential.

Sadly, table-topping glories must now be very distant memories for both Ružomberok and Jurkemík. The club managed to grind its way to a mid-table finish last season, largely because a run of clean sheets compensated for an unproductive attack, and started this season’s league campaign in similarly unspectacular style, though they did earn a surprise victory over Slovan Bratislava two weeks ago. Then, in last week’s round of cup matches they contrived to throw away a 2-0 lead over third tier side Dolná Ždaňa to draw 2-2 and lose the resulting penalty shoot-out.

The fall-out from the Ždaňa defeat has been significant. Jurkemík has demoted three members of the first-team squad to the reserves and stripped Tomáš Ďubek, the side’s best creative player of the last year or so, of the captaincy. Meanwhile, the club hierarchy has decreed that the players will be collectively fined a total of 45,000 Euros, with the money paying for supporters’ admission to the following three Corgoň Liga home matches, starting with the Žilina fixture. I have to say that, even as a beneficiary of this gesture, I consider it a silly gimmick. Specific compensation for those away fans who travelled to Dolný Ždaňa would have been fair enough (Wigan and Arsenal have set recent precedents for this) but Ruža’s actions basically amount to an open invitation to people from the town and beyond to come and witness a form of public self-flagellation. There’s also the rather significant fact that, due to cash-flow problems which have not yet gone away, the players were often not paid on time last season. It shouldn’t be such a surprise that they occasionally under-perform when that level of financial uncertainty has been hanging over them.

When you see the Ružomberok ground, you don’t need any of this background to understand where the club’s problems lie. With smart, modern stands on the sides contrasting with two large empty spaces where the end stands should be, it’s obvious that they once had plans for an impressive stadium but then ran out of money. At times in 2006, the extra capacity would have come in handy but it has rarely been needed since. On Saturday, even free admission couldn’t ensure that all the 5,000 currently available seats were filled.

On the field, the game turned out to be much more exciting than the away team will feel it should have been. Žilina were 2-0 up within half an hour ; Jozef Piaček took charge of a bout of penalty area pinball to smash in the first goal and David Střihavka added a second following a slick combination between Peruvian winger Jean Deza and Tomáš Majtán. Majtán had the ideal opportunity to effectively seal the game before half-time but his penalty kick, awarded after Deza’s mazy run had been crudely halted by Jan Kostelný, was well saved by Libor Hrdlička.

It was partly a piece of quick thinking by Jurkemík which brought Ruža back into the game  early in the second period. No doubt aware that Žilina’s Marcel Ondráš is not the most physically imposing of centre-backs, the home coach sent on tall substitute striker Tomáš Krbeček just as his team were preparing for an attacking free-kick. Into the penalty-area went the ball, up went Krbeček for the challenge, the ball dropped and former Slovan favourite Pavol Masaryk hooked it into the net. Žilina themselves then made a change, with striker Střihavka making way for midfielder Peter Šulek. The effect of this was initial confusion, since whatever instructions Šulek had brought onto the field with him didn’t seem to be grasped by his team-mates ; there were plenty of animated conversations before the team settled into its new system. Ruža pressed hard for an equaliser but a mixture of poor luck and some good defending kept them out, with Ondráš proving that skill and courage often compensate for lack of inches.

I don’t have high expectations for Žilina this season. Given the combination of a new coaching set-up and major changes to the squad over recent weeks, it will take time to find the best way to move forward. Two hopes I do have are that the side will back up their good away results with a home win very soon and that Viktor Pečovský, outstanding in central-midfield at Ružomberok, will be around to play a major role at the club for some time to come. Ruža, I feel, would be well-advised to cancel, or at least suspend, their players’ punishment and put some trust in the sort of professional pride that Saturday’s second-half performance revealed.

Open ends don't detract from the experience today.

Away from the pitch, well, the ground might not have been full but there was still fun to be had. The Žilina fans sang and danced their way through the game while the home followers found time, in between urging their side on and letting referee Michal Smolák know that certain of his decisions might have been made differently, to offer shots of borovička. Whatever my feelings about the decision of the Ružomberok board, I can’t complain about seeing my team win for free and getting a bit merry with the locals in the process. All in all, this was a day out that did just a bit more than fulfil my usual demands.

James Baxter

6 responses so far

6 Responses to “Ružomberok 1-2 Žilina”

  1.   George Mon 18 Sep 2011 at 6:00 pm

    Yes sounds as exciting ( or as hopeless ?) as most Slovak Football matches I attended …

    By the way …Just from The BBC Live website ..

    Goooooooaaaaaaaaal !

    1456: GOALFLASH Tottenham 2-0 Liverpool (Jermain Defoe)

    Red card
    Liverpool red card: Liverpool are down to NINE men. Martin Skrtel clatters into the back of Gareth Bale, again, and, despite Jamie Carragher bizarrely telling his team-mate to stay on the pitch, he’s off. A stupid, needless, brainless challenge, with 25 minutes to go.

    1453: RED CARD Liverpool’s Martin Skrtel


    I try to understand how a plank like Skrtel ever makes the Liverpool starting eleven ? Time for another Tattoo Martin , right in the centre of your bald forehead …….’Cupid Stunt’ perhaps !?!

  2.   Alfonseon 18 Sep 2011 at 6:55 pm

    I couldnt see the game, how did the peruvian player Deza played? I have heard people in the team dont like him?

  3.   James Baxteron 18 Sep 2011 at 10:40 pm

    Alfonse, Deza was very good in the first-half. Excellent pass to set up the second goal and great run stopped by a foul for the (missed) penalty. Then completely out of the game in the first 15 mins of the 2nd half and was subbed. Interesting rumour that people in the team don’t like him. He does give the impression of being a show-off. Definitely has talent but and is a potential match-winner but needs to be more of a team player.

  4.   StaryJazvecon 20 Sep 2011 at 3:20 pm

    The fining of teams for unacceptable results is a bit odd, isnt it. Some kind of feudal throwback. Does it happen outside Slovakia? What does Slovak/EU employment law have to say about such a practice, one wonders.

  5.   James Baxteron 20 Sep 2011 at 9:19 pm

    I just think its contemptible. Sums up the whole mentality of some of these owners. Maybe I feel that partly because admission’s dirt cheap anyway. 3 Euros at Ruza – I hardly made major savings.

  6.   StaryJazvecon 22 Sep 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Taxi for Mr. Jurkemik!

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