May 29 2013

Slovakia: End of Season Round-Up

Published by at 4:44 pm under Uncategorized

The Slovak football season is now over. Slovan Bratislava are worthy champions and cup-winners and, on a dramatic final Sunday, Trnava won their survival shoot-out at Prešov, sending the hosts down to the II Liga.

Slovan did the hard work over the first 28 games of the season, with the end coming as a slight anti-climax. The fact that they only won one of their last five might not be such a bad thing, though, as it could make coach Samuel Slovák aware of some of the flaws in the side ahead of Champions League qualification later in the summer. A sleepy start to their finalleague fixture, away to Banská Bystrica, resulted in a 1-0 defeat to Martin Chrien‘s first-minute goal. The hosts had only secured survival earlier in the week, thanks to a similarly narrow victory over Trnava.

Senica were one of the more consistent sides over the season’s closing weeks, and a 1-0 last- day victory at Nitra confirmed their second place finish. Róbert Pillár was the goalscorer. The game was played behind closed doors as a result of an unsavoury incident during Nitra’s previous home match, against Trnava, when a fan in the main stand assaulted visiting coach Vladimír Eckhardt. The whole episode casts a sad shadow over what has otherwise been an excellent last couple of months or so for Nitra. Considered together with last autumn’s ‘Seydouba Soumah incident’, it also means that next seasons Nitra-Trnava games will be very closely watched.

Trenčín will join Senica in Europa League qualifying. They were guaranteed third place even before their 2-1 win at Vion Zlaté Moravce. František Kubík and Samuel Štefánik put Trenčín 2-0 up before half-time, with Furtado Oliviera Bolinho replying for Vion in the second-half. Both clubs are saying goodbye to coaches who have done fantastic jobs for them. Juraj Jarábek is leaving Vion after four-and-a-half years in charge, while Adrián Guľa is joining Žilina.

Košice will be a little disappointed by their finish to the season. Dávid Guba’s last-minute goal on Sunday gave visiting Žilina a 2-2 draw, and allowed Myjava to leapfrog the hosts into fourth place. Earlier, Jakub Paur’s goal in the second minute had given Žilina the perfect start, but strikes from Kamil Karaš and Uroš Matič looked to have won it for Košice. Coach Ján Kozák was still satisfied with Košice’s efforts, and he can certainly be happy with the campaign as a whole, which has been in vivid contrast to last season’s relegation battle. Žilina have had a very poor spring in the league, but their cup-final appearance does at least give them a shot at Europa League qualification.

Myjava’s memorable season finished on a high, thanks to a 1-0 win at Ružomberok. Pavol Kosík scored the decisive goal. Coach Ladislav Hudec was in Oscar speech mode afterwards, thanking players, fans and the board for making such an excellent campaign possible. Ruža too have done very well, considering the cuts made to their budget last summer. They now part company with coach Ladislav Šimčo, whose tireless work with a young squad will be difficult to replicate.

And so to the real final-day drama. Trnava travelled to Prešov knowing that nothing but a win would preserve their Corgoň Liga status. Many had already written them off following a limp defeat at home to Bystrica in their previous match. Prešov, meanwhile, had just earned their only away win of the season (at Žilina) and needed only to avoid defeat to stay up. As sometimes happens, though, it was the team that needed to do more that ultimately prevailed. In the 26th minute, home defender Jaroslav Kolbas fouled Ivan Schranz in the penalty-area and was sent-off. Ján Vlasko converted the spot-kick. Trnava’s numerical advantage was ended after 53 minutes, when Miroslav Karhan was shown the red card, but they held on for a 1-0 win.

Perhaps the day’s real hero was Trnava’s Czech striker Martin Vyskočil. His father had passed away on the Thursday before the match, but he still opted to play. ‘Dad was a professional footballer like me,’ Vyskočil explained later. ‘He’d have told me not to sit at home being sad but to go and help my team.’ He then added a few words of wisdom for the Prešov players : ‘They should understand that relegation is sad, but it isn’t a tragedy. This is only sport, tragedy is something very different.’ Vyskočil is right of course. For proof, Prešov could have a look at the II Liga table. At the top, and ready to take their place in next season’s Corgoň Liga, are DAC Dunajská Streda, relegated just a year ago. Their coach, Mikuláš Radványi, characterises their campaign as ‘difficult but beautiful’. ‘The club is in conflict with the local authority, and we’ve frequently had our water and heating cut off,’ he says, ‘but there’s been a wonderful team-spirit among our players.’ If Prešov can generate that sort of spirit over the next 12 months, they too could make a quick return to the top-flight.

Banská Bystrica 1 Slovan 0 (Slovan are champions and enter Champions League qualifying)

Nitra 0 Senica 1 (Senica finish second and enter Europa League qualifying)

Zlaté Moravce 1 Trenčín 2 (Trenčín finish third and enter Europa League qualifying)

Košice 2 Žilina 2 (Žilina enter Europa League qualifying as beaten cup-finallists)

Ružomberok 0 Myjava 1

Prešov 0 Trnava 1 (Prešov finish bottom and are relegated to II Liga)

 

James Baxter

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