Dec 09 2012

Corgon Liga Autumn Summary

Published by at 12:55 pm under Uncategorized

The story of the autumn in the Corgoň Liga has been of Slovan Bratislava gradually asserting themselves and taking a six-point lead at the top of the table, of the six clubs below them (separated by just two points) failing to find enough consistency to mount a sterner challenge, and of a spectacular, yet mysterious, loss of form at Spartak Trnava, the club I thought might well win the league!

Slovan didn’t start the season terribly well. Defeat at Košice in the second game, and a draw at home to Žilina in the third, led to coach Vladimír Weiss saying ‘enough is enough’ and walking out. But Samuel Slovák took over in time to lead the side to a 1-0 win at Trnava, since when he has gradually shaped it according to his vision. He has a fine array of creative talent at his disposal, notably Erik Grendel, Juraj Halenár and Marko Milinković, and has deployed them effectively. Equally importantly, the fleet-footed Lester Peltier, who made an uncertain start after his summer move from Trenčín, has adapted to life in the capital and is doing a decent job as the lone striker.

Other sides with title aspirations will draw encouragement from Slovan’s occasional vulnerability in defence and from the fact that, just now and then (as in defeats at Vion Zlaté Moravce and at home to Trnava), the whole team can get stuck in first gear. There may also be hope that one or two significant departures could weaken the squad, though, as yet, the talk has been more of strengthening. Overall, it is difficult at this stage to imagine Slovan not finishing the season as champions.

Of the six pursuing teams, Vion, Košice and Ružomberok can all be delighted with their efforts. Vion are a small-town club who continue to evolve under the excellent coaching of Juraj Jarábek. They will now hope not to fall away the way they did last spring. Košice are making a mockery of last season’s relegation battle and, with 23 points from a possible 27, have the league’s best home record. As for Ružomberok, they were many people’s tip for relegation following a summer of financial upheaval that left them without a reserve team, but have performed above all expectations.

Trenčín too have done well, especially considering the summer sales of Peltier and Filip Hlohovský to Slovan. They are still as exciting to watch as any team in the league, but will feel they have dropped a few too many points on their own artificial pitch. Senica would be closer to Slovan if it hadn’t been for a poor start to the season, while Žilina, in fast-tracking several teenagers into their first-team, seem to be concentrating more on the long-term future than on winning the title this time around.   

There are six more points between Ružomberok, the lowest placed of the above six sides, and Prešov, who occupy eighth place. The easterners will feel they made a good move in sacking unpopular Bulgarian coach Angel Červenkov before the penultimate autumn fixture, since his replacement, Ladislav Totkovič, then led the side to two successive victories.

Two points hehind Prešov, Myjava and Banská Bystrica are separated from each other by goal-difference. League newcomers Myjava were enjoying themselves at the top level until a run of just one point from their last four games raised renewed questions over whether they will continue to hold their own. Bystrica, with their inability to convert possession into goals, are perhaps the most frustrating side in the league but, a bit like Žilina, they could cite their determination to give their young players a chance (they regularly supply several members of Slovakia’s Under-21 squad) as one reason for that.

Second-from-bottomNitrahad a dreadful time following their 3-1 home loss to Trnava in mid-September. Seydouba Soumah, their best player, was banned for six months, the club’s main shareholders resigned and the team picked up just two points from the next eight matches. Coach Ladislav Jurkemík was then sacked. His replacement, Jozef Vukušič, has stopped the free-fall, leading his charges to victories in the last two home matches. There is still hope for Nitra, but it must be remembered that a 3-point deduction, yet another punishment imposed after that fateful Trnava game, will come into effect at the end of the season.

Trnava might have won at Nitra and Slovan, but their autumn has otherwise been an unmitigated failure. Among their more embarrassing results have been 3-0 and 6-0 hammerings by Trenčín and a 5-0 home drubbing by Vion. Pavel Hoftych hung on longer than expected as coach, but was finally moved ‘upstairs’ before the autumn’s final two fixtures, to be replaced on the bench by Peter Zelenský. In different circumstances, Trnava would be eagarly anticipating the start of redevelopment work on their ground, Štadión Antona Maletinského. As it is, since this work will necessitate a temporary move to Senec or Pieštany, the club will now be concerned at the prospect of fighting a relegation battle in exile. 

James Baxter

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