Nov 06 2011

Zilina 3-1 Senica

Published by at 8:58 am under Domestic and tagged: , ,

I was so convinced Senica were not going to lose this game that I already had a little write-up planned on what a strong side they are and how we should not discount them when considering contenders for the Corgoň Liga title. It’s a genuine surprise to find myself recounting an accomplished Žilina performance and a comfortable 3-1 home win. How did it happen?

First, I still think Senica are strong. In Stanislav Griga, they have a coach with rich and varied experience of Czech, Slovak and international football. He guided them to a second-placed finish last season and a lot of the players involved in that achievement are still around, including Tomáš Kóňa and Juraj Piroška (both of whom have played for Slovakia his year), goalkeeper Peter Bolek and holding midfielder and long-throw specialist Tomáš Strnad. After a mixed start to this season, they had gone ten games unbeaten going into the Žilina game and had not conceded a goal in five successive away matches. So I don’t think I was being irrational in expecting them to emerge from this match with at least a draw.

Furthermore, in contrast to the visitors, Žilina’s form going into the match had been patchy. Their previous home game, two weeks ago, was a dire struggle with bottom side Prešov, the 1-0 win fooling no’one. Last weekend, they deservedly lost away to Slovan ; again, the fact that the title-holders left it late to score their winner did not gloss over the fact that Žilina had never really been in the game. Then, on Tuesday, they needed penalties to get the better of Prešov and progress to the semi-finals of the Slovak Cup.

Perhaps the key to the win over Senica was the fact that Griga celebrated his 50th birthday on Friday. As he was born in Žilina and started both his playing and coaching careers with his hometown club, the occasion was never going to be allowed to go unmarked. Before the game kicked off, players from both sides lined up respectfully and the crowd applauded warmly as Griga received gifts from Žilina owner Jozef Antošík. If all this was a softening-up tactic, it worked to perfection, as the home side went on to dominate much of the game.

With just 7 minutes gone, Viktor Pečovský released Roman Gergel with a brilliant pass out to the left. The cross came in, Momodou Ceesay’s effort hit the bar, but was diverted back over the line by the unlucky Petr Šíma. Senica hit back quickly and, after controlling possession for a spell, scored a 22nd minute equaliser through Jiří Valenta following Piroška’s cross. Another four minutes later, Žilina had a free-kick on the edge of the box and Patrik Mráz sent the ball swerving and dipping into the top corner of Bolek’s net. Seven minutes before half-time, Mráz completed the scoring from the penalty spot after Petr Pavlík had shoved Tomáš Majtán to the ground. Having not conceded an away goal in around 500 minutes of football, Senica had now shipped three in 38.

The second-half was a more sedate affair. Strnad got plenty of throwing practice at the beginning of it without seriously bothering the home defence. Piroška and former Žilina player Martin Ďurica did threaten intermittently and the former had a reasonable-looking penalty appeal refused but Žilina were still playing the better football and would have won by a more convincing margin had Ceesay and Stanislav Angelovič not missed inviting chances.  Still, a 3-1 win is surprise enough.

I don’t think the result reveals too much except perhaps that no team near the top of the Corgoň Liga yet looks good enough to run away with the title. Perhaps you could be more positive, as Slovan coach Vladimír Weiss was this week, and say that there are now quite a few sides who look capable of making a challenge and that this suggests that the quality of the league is improving. Weiss’s own team face their big derby away at Trnava on Sunday knowing that a win will see them move level on points with Žilina at the top, while defeat would see them remain in sixth place. You could disagree with Weiss’s point about the league’s quality but you can’t deny that, for now at least, it’s being closely fought.

Other conclusions? Firstly, Mr Griga could be forgiven a certain suspicion of warm birthday wishes from now on. And Žilina’s Mráz and Pečovský, both excellent against Senica, are surely destined for bigger and better things. Mráz must have the sweetest left-foot in Slovak football, while Pečovský runs the game from deep midfield and almost never gives the ball away. Two players to appreciate while they’re still around, I feel.   

James Baxter

One response so far

One Response to “Zilina 3-1 Senica”

  1.   Georgeon 07 Nov 2011 at 11:41 am

    ….you do actually go and watch Slovak games dont you James ?

    Yet another wrong result Trnava 2, The Bitski Blow Jobs 0 ….

    Perhaps you should stick to nose pickin, rather than pickin results, as you may have move luck , no ?

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