Nov 27 2011

Žilina v Banska Bystrica, Focus on: Martin Jakubko

Published by at 8:30 am under Domestic and tagged: , ,


There have probably been more than enough accounts of Žilina games on this site already this season but I wanted this one to be at least partly about Banská Bystrica striker Martin Jakubko. Like Žilina’s own Zdeno Štrba and Trnava’s Miroslav Karhan, Jakubko is a retired Slovakia international who has returned to play in the Corgoň Liga after a spell abroad, in his case with four different Russian clubs. As such, he should be, and probably is, a cut above most players in the league.

Still aged just 31, Jakubko ended his international career following the 2010 World Cup, in which he made one brief but memorable appearance, winning the penalty from which Róbert Vittek scored the side’s consolation goal in their 2-1 defeat to Holland in the last 16. He returned to Bystrica this spring from Dinamo Moscow but injuries hampered his performances in the run-in to the end of last season. He has been in fine form this campaign, however, scoring 10 league goals and earning the praise of such opposition coaches as Senica’s Stanislav Griga and Slovan’s Vladimír Weiss. There is surely a chance that Weiss will make a move for Jakubko over the coming winter break because he appears to be just the type of striker Slovan need. Big and powerful, strong in the air and with his back to goal, he would make either an effective lone front-man or a good partner for someone like Filip Šebo. I actually think he would have enhanced Slovan’s Europa League campaign. It would be pushing it to say they would have qualified from the group with him in the squad but they might well have asked more serious questions of the Bilbao, Salzburg and PSG defences.

For all his qualities, however, Jakubko isn’t always the greatest of finishers, as my first memory of seeing him play suggests. It dates back to a 2005 first-leg cup-tie between Žilina and Bystrica, which the visitors dominated. Jakubko was all over the Žilina defence but, despite getting himself into some great positions, he couldn’t put the ball in the net. When the final whistle blew and the stadium announcer confirmed the scoreline, one wag in the crowd corrected  ‘Žilina 0 Banská Bystrica 0‘ with a shout of ‘Žilina 0 Jakubko 0’.

My second memory is both more recent and more positive. It relates to a 2009 Slovakia v Chile friendly, again played in Žilina. In truth, the occasion is actually more memorable for an outstanding Chile performance than anything else. For 70 minutes, the short, sharp passes and lightning movements of the South Americans made the Slovak team look primitive. Remarkably, largely thanks to some outstanding defending by Martin Škrtel, the game entered its last 20 minutes with the home side just 2-1 down, whereupon Weiss sent Jakubko on as a substitute. The change was both immediate and startling. Having barely seen the ball at all for much of the evening, Slovakia began to hit it long and high towards the Chilean penalty-area. With Jakubko glowering over them, the visiting defenders were almost visibly scurrying for cover. There were knockdowns, scrambles and chances. Chile held on for the win, and rightly so, but those closing minutes were testimony to how a big, physical attacker, properly deployed, can cause problems for even the classiest opposition.

It would be stretching credibility to draw too many comparisons between Žilina and Chile of course, but there are two common themes. Žilina do try to play a ‘pass-and-move’ style of football, more so, it seems, under Ľubomír Nosický than when Pavel Hapal was coach. They also lack defenders with the ability to physically dominate and thus are vulnerable to strikers of Jakubko’s type. Given that, as well as the fact that former Bystrica players Viktor Pečovský and Róbert Pich are now well-established at Žilina, Saturday’s game promised to be an interesting way to round of the season’s autumn phase…..


With 44 minutes gone, I was thinking that Jakubko wasn’t going to give me much more to say. This wasn’t through any fault of his, it was because his team-mates were either too preoccupied with defending or, when they did get hold of the ball, too inept to give him any decent service. A couple of fouls were cleverly drawn from Marcel Ondráš, Žilina’s occasionally over-anxious centre-back, and that was about it. Žilina took the lead after just 2 minutes, Miroslav Barčík accepting Pečovský’s pass to finish with ease, and should have gone 2-0 up on the half-hour after Jozef Rejdovian had pulled down Stanislav Angelovič and been shown a red card. Patrik Mráz missed the penalty and must have been cursing himself when, with half-time imminent, Jakubko finally got into the game. Receiving the ball on the corner of the Žilina area, he drew three defenders to him before laying off to Ján Ľupták, whose speculative effort took enough of a deflection to wrongfoot Martin Krnáč.

The home team took just ten minutes of the second-half to re-establish their lead. It was a case of two players making amends for earlier failings ; Mráz curled in a free-kick and Ondráš scored. But Bystrica’s ten men fought gamely to stay in the contest, helped considerably by Jakubko’s physique and intelligence. He moved around well, came deep when necessary, held the ball up and, of course, continued to win free-kicks. He came desperately close to a scoring his team’s second equaliser too, when, following a long cross from the left, he stretched athletically to hit a low, narrow-angled volley which Krnáč did very well to keep out. Žilina had chances of their own but could not breathe easily until the 88th minute when Pečovský rattled in a low 25-yarder.

It all means that, rather like a woman tentatively agreeing to take the last chocolate from a box (‘I’m sure it’s not good for me but if you’re sure nobody else wants it…’), Žilina have taken over at the top of the Corgoň Liga again. This time, since the winter-break is now upon us, they’ll be there for at least three months. Say what you like about the quality of the league but you can’t deny that it’s close. Four teams, at the very least, will fancy their chances of making a championship challenge when the action starts again in February. What actually happens in spring naturally depends very much on what happens over the winter ; how the teams condition themselves during training and friendly matches, who they sell and who they bring in.

The Žilina-Bystrica game probably has some relevance to that final point. If Weiss watches a 90-minute video of it, and it’s inconceivable to me that he won’t, I think he’ll see enough there to convince him that Jakubko would indeed add something to Slovan’s title challenge. The player himself would presumably be agreeable to the move, since Bystrica are one side who will almost certainly not be among the main contenders. As a Žilina supporter, I could cope with all that. But if a club from the Slovak league, or one of comparable quality, comes in for Pečovský, I hope they’ll be told very firmly where to go. Unlike today’s game as a whole, the home number 12 was, yet again, just about flawless. I hope I’ll see plenty more of him in the yellow and green come spring.   

James Baxter

7 responses so far

7 Responses to “Žilina v Banska Bystrica, Focus on: Martin Jakubko”

  1.   George Mon 27 Nov 2011 at 4:21 pm

    Yea , yea yea, sorry James this was all a bit like watching paint drying .

    Lots of words , but little new content or actual substance .

    Green ( and yellow) army eh James !

    I read Garry Speed of Wales has topped himself ..sounds rather sad , but if a super fit and excellent footballing professional like him cannot make it on this planet, what chance for the likes of the plump, red faced Sebo and his cocaine snorting . Still they say only the good die young?

  2.   StaryJazvecon 27 Nov 2011 at 5:38 pm

    JK Jnr. training with the belasi, I am reading…

  3.   Jameson 27 Nov 2011 at 8:05 pm

    I’m sure there’ll be some appropriate tributes to Gary Speed over the next few days and I think I’d prefer to just read those rather than join in speculation over his reasons – which will probably never be known anyway. It’s a tragedy pure and simple.

    May or may not be relevant but the Guardian Secret Footballer column on Saturday was about depression in sport. Certainly some sobering thoughts in there.

  4.   britskibelasion 27 Nov 2011 at 8:35 pm

    We’ll see what happens with Jakubko this winter. It’s seems as though Halenar and Sebo made a final pre-winter statement to Weiss yesterday. Both were well taken goals.

    Certainly plenty of question marks over some of Slovan’s recent signings (Hartig for example???!) so I hope they are at least turn out better this time around ..

    Was reading comment about the value of Bagayoko and that it’s about time Slovan did something about renewing his contract. All the talk of new signings they might forget to keep their better players. Seems like Kiss will sign for Cardiff too – should be some money from his sale – he has been impressing observers in South Wales from what I hear.

    Surely Zilina will learn their lessons from last winter and be better prepared come Spring. Slovan must first focus on gaining some points from the remaining 2 EL games. Obviously they’re unlikely to get anything in Bilbao, but surely they can target victory at home on the final game against Salzburg?

  5.   George Mon 27 Nov 2011 at 9:48 pm

    Dan, with the greatest respect , do you ever stop trainspoting? A man is dead in tragic circumstances and all you do is rattle off Cho Cho registration numbers again and again …are you in love with Halenar & Sebo or something ?

    Personally, I am not sure if anyone on here other than you gives a toss about Slovan at the moment ……son you are one sad, mad individual .

  6.   Ultras Duklaon 03 Dec 2011 at 6:29 pm

    Do you know why Jakubko finished international career? Because of Weiss. There is no chance that Jakubko will move to Slovan.

    Another reason, look at this interview,

    Q: Vedeli by ste si však vôbec predstaviť pôsobenie v inom slovenskom klube?
    A:Po odchode z Dukly už určite nie, pretože sa ku mne ľudia správali tak, ako sa správali.
    Q: Can you imagine playing in another slovakian club?
    A: After leaving Dukla definitely not, because people behaved, as they behaved.

    Sorry, i am not good in translation, but hope that you understand. Jakubko will never leave Dukla to another slovakian club.

  7.   Jameson 04 Dec 2011 at 10:29 am

    You may be right of course. But that article was written nearly eight months ago – long ago either for him to have got disillusioned at Dukla and/or for other relationships to have been repaired. Weiss is on record as praising him, often a sign of interest in buying a player.

    I don’t want to be disrespectful to Dukla but when I saw Jakubko play last week, I saw a player – an ex-international -who is 31 and in very good form, who is simply a bit too good for the side he is playing for. If he really wants to hang around there for the rest of his career, he must either see some serious prospects there (might be the case, I don’t know) or have no real ambitions left himself.

    There are some decent players at Dukla, Brasen and Hlinka look good and Uskovic has looked good for a while but it so often seems to be promise without fulfilment. I’d say it’s not that Jakubko will never leave, I’d say right now the club needs to change its culture for him to stay. Because I don’t see why Bystrica, with that regional base, potential support etc , shouldn’t at least have enough of a winning mentality to be where Senica/Zlate Moravce are.

    Finally, after 35 years of watching this game, I know not to simply believe players who tell the media ‘I’ll never leave club X’.

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