Archive for the 'Domestic' Category

Feb 25 2013

Corgon Liga Spring Preview

Published by under Domestic

The spring phase of the Corgoň Liga is due to start next weekend. There have been the usual discussions about whether the weather will allow the first fixtures to actually go ahead, even though they are scheduled to take place one week later than last season. According to a survey in Šport this week, most of the clubs due to play at home are satisfied that their grounds will be fit. The one exception is Spartak Myjava, who say that they have already asked the authorities if their game with Trenčin can be postponed. However, in case they are ordered to play, they have had groups of volunteers in to help clear snow off their pitch. The following preview assumes that all matches will indeed be on.

League leaders Slovan Bratislava host Vion Zlaté Moravce, their nearest pursuers, in Friday’s televised game. Slovan are confident enough in their ability to fend off Vion’s spring challenge to loan them one of their players – Slovak Under-21 international Karol Mészáros. He has been joined by one of his international team-mates, Žilina’s 18-year-old midfielder Milan Škriniar, who swaps places with Michal Škvarka. Mészáros and Škriniar should both enjoy a good spring with Vion, but their new team will be clear second favourites on Friday. Slovan have not been forced to sell any of their key players and will be keen to extend their six-point advantage at the top of the league. When Seydouba Soumah is finally eligible to play (in mid-March), they will be even stronger. For now, a win by the odd goal will do them nicely.

Third-placed Senica are at home to Ružomberok, one point and four places further back (such is the congestion behind Slovan). The big question surrounding Senica is how they will adapt to their second new coach in six months. Zdeněk Psotka left in December to take up a director of football role with Sigma Olomouc. He was replaced by Vladimír Koník, who led Šamorín to a first-ever promotion to II Liga last season but has never coached at the top level before. Left-back Patrik Mráz, most recently of Polish champions Śląsk Wrocław, should be a good addition to the playing ranks. Ruža were over-achievers in the autumn, and gave the distinct impression that they didn’t welcome the arrival of the winter-break. Their last meeting with Senica, however, saw them give an uncharacteristically lame performance in a 2-0 defeat, so it will be interesting to see if they can do better on Saturday.

Košice currently hold the league’s best home record and should be confident of maintaining it on Saturday against the side with the worst away form – eastern neighbours Prešov. Košice will, however, have to get used to life without Dávid Škutka, currently second in the individual goalscoring charts, who has moved to Slavia Prague. And Prešov might be a tougher proposition under Ladislav Totkovič than they were under Angel Červenkov, his increasingly hapless predecessor. Totkovič led the side to two successive home wins at the end of the autumn phase, but victory for Prešov on Saturday would still be a perverse result.

Žilina have been busy over the winter. They have changed coach, sacking Frans Adelaar and appointing Štefan Tarkovič until the summer, and have been buying, selling, borrowing and lending players. The most notable departure is Momodou Ceesay, who teams up with Vladimír Weiss Senior at FC Kairat Altay in Kazakhstan. Arriving are Michal Mravec (from Dutch club Emmen), Dávid Guba (on loan from Prešov) and Tomáš Majtán (returning from a loan with Ostrava). Then there are the moves made to and from Vion by Škriniar and Škvarka. A home game with Banská Bystrica will be the first test of the new combinations. For their part, Bystrica will be hoping for a solid defensive partnership between experienced new signing Jozef Adamík and Slovakia Under-21 player Norbert Gyömbér, who will move to Brescia this summer.

The Trnava v Nitra game will be closely-watched, not only because it features the league’s bottom two sides but also because the reverse fixture last September turned into the ‘Soumah affair’. Yet there are other interesting factors too. For a start, the game will be played at Štadión Antona Malatinského after all, since Trnava have reversed their earlier decision to groundshare during redevelopment of the stadium. The reason for this, naturally enough, is that the club want to maximise their home support as they face up to a relegation battle. But it will take a considerable improvement on the team’s autumn form to justify the change of heart ; so far, Banská Bystrica are the only side to leave Trnava empty-handed this season. Trnava have been busy in the transfer market during the winter, with Ivan Hodúr and Ivan Lietava in particular looking like decent acquisitions. Nitra will be happy that Jozef Vukušič, who led them to successive home wins at the end of the autumn, is staying on as coach. Will he be trying to make use of any bitterness his players still feel at what happened last September, I wonder?

Myjava v Trenčin is another local derby, and another fixture that produced controversy last time it was played. Myjava might be well-advised to ensure it goes ahead on Saturday, since difficult playing conditions are more likely to favour them than their more technical visitors. They are also in need of points, as opposed to games in hand, to ensure they steer clear of the bottom of the league. Still, the squad doesn’t lack toughness ; Ružomberok’s muscular striker Mulumbu Mukendi recently described their central defenders, Martin Černáček and Roman Častulín as ‘definitely the hardest opponents I’ve faced this season’. Trenčín have to work out how to replace the goals of the departed David Depetris and the calming presence of captain Boris Godál, who recently joined Polish club Zaglebie Lubin. An assured performance – and a cracking goal from František Kubík – in a 1-1 friendly draw at Žilina last Saturday suggests they’ll cope.

Predictions

 

Slovan 2 Zlaté Moravce 1

Senica 2 Ružomberok 1

Košice 2 Prešov 0

Žilina 1 Banská Bystrica 0

Trnava 1 Nitra 0

Myjava 2 Trenčín 2

 

James Baxter

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Nov 26 2012

Slovak Football Update 25-Nov

Published by under Domestic

The most important news of this weekend may not be the results. Two clubs, Trnava and Senica, appear to be proceeding with major stadium developments. Trnava plan to completely reconstruct Štadión antona malatinského, turning it into a fully-covered 19,000 capacity arena. Demolition work on the current ground should start in February, meaning that Saturday’s game at home to Ružomberok was its last. If all goes to plan, the new stadium should be ready early in 2015. Trnava will therefore be playing in exile for the next two years ; Pieštany and Senec have been mentioned as possible temporary hosts.

Senica’s plans are more modest, unsurprisingly as they are a small-town club who lack the support-base Trnava can call upon. They too are going to build on their current site, but in four phases, so that a temporary move will not be necessary. Work has already begun on the first stage of the development ; the construction of new stands behind the goals. This is scheduled for completion in time for the start of the spring phase of the current season.

I wouldn’t get too excited just yet, but these developments could be the best off-field news Slovak football has had for quite a while. Could it be that this month’s renewal of talks on a joint Czech-Slovak top division has sharpened minds at some clubs? Quite possibly, given that the Czech and Slovak football associations have both made clear that the substandard infrastructure at most Slovak clubs is a major barrier to such a project.

And so to the weekend’s football. Slovan Bratislava are clear favourites for this season’s Corgoň Liga title. Friday’s game, which didn’t even involve them, was a reasonable illustration of why. Žilina, the home side, went into it having failed to score in four successive matches. Winning the league appears to have become less of a priority for them than giving several of their promising teenagers an extended first-team opportunity. The visitors, second-placed Vion Zlaté Moravce, arrived on the back of a seven-game unbeaten run. Yet Vion were a let-down. Their passing through midfield was neat, even pretty at times, but they didn’t look like scoring until it was far too late and their defence was vulnerable every time Žilina attacked. Žilina won 4-1 thanks to two goals from Róbert Pich and one each from Milan Škriniar and Ricardo Nunes. Peter Orávik’s strike for Vion was barely a consolation. In the absence of Viktor Pečovský, 17-year old Škriniar took on the responsibility of holding Žilina‘s central midfield together and gave the latest in a succession of fine performances. He and his fellow youngsters will be thrilled with the result but will feel they deserved better than a crowd of just 1,190.

The other reason Slovan are favourites is, of course, their own form. Since their shock derby defeat by Trnava, they have won three games in a row, the latest of them being Saturday’s 3-1 success at home to Trenčín. Lester Peltier gave Slovan a half-time lead and they withstood some second-half pressure from their visitors before adding further goals through Nicolas Gorosito and Igor Žofčák (a penalty). There was still time for Trenčín’s David Depetris to score his 16th, of the season. There is continued talk of him getting Slovak citizenship and leading the national team’s attack – an intriguing prospect indeed.

Or perhaps Stanislav Griga and Michal Hipp will be giving serious consideration to the claims of Košice’s Dávid Škutka. A hat-trick in a 4-0 win over an admittedly hapless Nitra side took Škutka’s tally for the season to 13. His first goal had a large element of luck about it but the other two, both confident first-time finishes, certainly showed the sort of ruthlessnessSlovakialack. Serbian midfieldier Uroš Matič claimed the last goal with a fine long-range. strike. With 23 points from 9 games, Košice will go into the winter with the league’s best home record. Now if they could just improve on the measly three points they’ve picked up on their travels….

Prešov sacked Bulgarian coach Angel Červenkov during the week, appointing Ladislav Totkovič in his place. The initial effect, a 1-0 win over visiting Banská Bystrica, suggests the move may have been the right one. Peter Lipták’s deflected strike, just 12 minutes into the contest, was the difference between the sides, to the regret of Bystrica coach Norbert Hrnčár. ‘We conceded too early,’ he said. ‘Once they’d scored, Prešov had something to defend and it was hard going for us.’

Trnava will be fretting over the prospect of fighting a relegation battle in exile. As well as unveiling their stadium plans this week, they also moved coach Pavel Hoftych ‘upstairs’ to a director of football role, appointing Peter Zelenský in his place. Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat to Ružomberok will have shown Zelenský the extent of his task. The only goal was a route-one affair ; Mulumba Mukendi chased a long clearance from goalkeeper Lukáš Zich, brushed Marek Janečka’s challenge aside and slid the ball into the net. Thereafter, Ruža’s fifth clean sheet in nine away games was rarely in  danger. As for Trnava, a lame defeat like this in front of just 2,500 fans seems a sad way to say even a temporary goodbye to what has often beenSlovakia’s most atmospheric venue.

Sunday’s game, the Záhorie derby between Myjava and Senica, was won 2-1 by the visitors, for whom Peter Štepanovský and Juraj Piroška (a penalty) scored the important goals. Martin Černáček replied for Myjava, but their coach, Ladislav Hudec, readily admitted that his side were second best for much of the contest. The result does put Senica back on track after a sequence of four games without a win, but, as with Žilina and Vion, their challenge to Slovan at the top of the league has lacked the necessary consistency. Perhaps new-look surroundings will inspire them anew come the spring.

Žilina 4 Zlaté Moravce 1

Slovan 3 Trenčín 1

Košice 4 Nitra 0

Prešov 1 Banská Bystrica 0

Trnava 0 Ružomberok 1

Myjava 1 Senica 2

James Baxter

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Oct 27 2012

Žilina v Slovan Preview

Published by under Domestic

Sunday’s Žilina v Slovan game looks like the biggest in the Corgoň Liga so far this season. I say that with full respect for other matches played this weekend. There’s Košice v Senica, for example, which sees the hosts put their near-perfect home record on the line against a team with five successive wins. Or league newcomers Myjava against Trnava, the side no’one thought would be occupying bottom spot at this stage of the season.

But Žilina and Slovan have shared the last four league titles between them. They went into the weekend in second and first places respectively. Their games are usually accompanied by a bit of needle. Mutual antipathy should always be part of a fixture like this, though hopefully the occasion won’t be marred by the sort of off-field unpleasantness witnessed at three of thesides’ last four meetings at Štadión pod Dubňom.

Poor crowd behaviour at this fixture is a topic it would be tedious to go over again. However, the question of what sort of attendance there’ll be on Sunday is an interesting one, especially considering that both sets of fans are disaffected. One of Žilina’s fan-clubs continues to boycott games for a variety of reasons, most of them dubious. Meanwhile, Slovan supporters have more understandable gripes at their clubs’ stadium situation and, as this weekend, at constantly having to watch games at times dictated by the TV companies. 1900 on a Sunday is hardly most people’s ideal time to watch live football, and the weather promises to be bitterly cold, so I suspect Žilina will be pleasantly surprised if as many as 4,000 turn up.

The last time the sides met in Žilina was in April, when the hosts produced a dominant second-half performance to win 3-0. One way to read that victory was as a vindication of the policy of spreading your scouting activities. Ricardo Nunes (recently capped by South Africa) and Togo captain Serge Akakpo were both outstanding for Žilina. Slovan’s recent recruits at the time – Mário Pečalka, Kamil Kopúnek and Ondřej Smetana – all had plenty of Corgoň Liga experience with their previous clubs, but all were anonymous or poor.

Slovan haven’t altered their overall approach since, but their summer signings are working out very well. Former Senica player Nicolas Gorosito is a fixture at centre-back, while Filip Hlohovský and Lester Peltier are continuing to show the attacking capabilities they revealedwhile at Trenčín. Žilina have taken a different direction again. The players they have introduced this autumn have mostly been teenage products of the club’s youth system. It is unlikely that all of Milan Škriniar (17), Miroslav Kačer (16), Jaroslav Mihalík (18) and Peter Lupčo (17) will start on Sunday, but one or two of them will definitely have a part to play at some stage.

Then there are players making their way back after long injury lay-offs. Babatounde Issiaka Bello scored twice for Žilina in April, and even outshone Nunes and Akakpo, but he has been out for most of this season and will not be ready for Sunday. Slovan have better news about Igor Žofčák. His absence in spring was perhaps the biggest single reason his team didn’t make a better fist of retaining the title they won in 2011. They were adapting better to lifewithout him this season, but his return for last Sunday’s Košice game will still have been most welcome. If I had to name one player on either side who could decide a close game with, say, a clever through ball or a perfectly delivered set-piece, it would be Žofčák. Žilina will have the utmost respect for his abilities.

The coaches are another point of interest. Dutchman Frans Adelaar took over on the Žilina bench just two weeks after that April meeting. His brief is to continue to earn success, while improving the attractiveness of the team’s football. Whether or not he is fulfilling the second part is a debatable point, but the youngsters have been brought in on his initiative and – rather perversely - his defence is the meanest in the league. Vladimír Weiss, never quite accepted by the Slovan fans, left the club in July, ironically enough after a 1-1 draw at home to Sunday’s opponents. He was replaced by Samuel Slovák, already a Slovan legend for the 169 appearances he made for them over three spells as a player. Not even Slovák’s presence has been able to get the Slovan fans flocking to Pasienky, but they would definitely settle fora return to their own stadium with him as coach. Plenty of patience will be required for that to happen of course, and Slovák won’t be devoting much thought to the prospect at present.

Like any good coach, he will be concentrating on the most immediate task at hand – masterminding victory over his team’s nearest rivals.

Prediction : Žilina 1 Slovan 1

 

James Baxter

 

 

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Oct 22 2012

Corgon Liga Latest 21-Oct

Published by under Domestic

At least Saturday’s Trnava v Žilina game was all about the football. At the corresponding fixture last season, Žilina’s ‘support’ was augmented by a number of Polish hooligans and there was trouble before, during and after the match. The Poles didn’t carry out their threat to make their presence felt again, so all was quiet off the field. On the pitch, Miroslav Karhan gave Trnava a 16th minute lead with a fantastic shot direct from a free-kick. But Žilina turned things round before half-time, as Róbert Pich and Momodou Ceesay finished off moves initiated by captain Miroslav Barčík. Žilina then saw out the second period for a timely win ahead of next week’s top-of-the-table clash with Slovan Bratislava. As for Trnava, this was their third successive defeat and they remain rooted to the bottom of the league.

Senica’s excellent form shows no sign of letting up. They found visiting Prešov tough to break down in the first-half on Saturday, but the creative talents of Juraj Piroška, who set up Peter Pavlík for the all-important first goal after 56 minutes, ultimately proved crucial. Further chances came and went, until Lamine Diarrassouba made it 2-0 in the closing stages. But it is surely no co’incidence that Senica’s remarkable recovery from a poor start to the season – they are on a run of five successive wins – was launched after Piroška’s return to the club from Slovan.

Vion Zlaté Moravce are another side in fine form. A 3-1 win over Myjava on Saturday keeps them just one point behind Žilina and Senica. Goals from Ľubomír Bernáth and Lukáš Kováč saw Vion go 2-0 up within the first-half hour. Matej Siva pulled one back before half-time to set up an interesting second period but, after spells of Myjava pressure, Adrián Candrák put the result beyond doubt. ‘This was a good game for the spectators but not for me as a coach,’said Myjava’s Ladislav Hudec afterwards. ‘We conceded goals we should have prevented.’

Trenčín have only sporadically been at their best this season and they had to settle for another home draw on Saturday – 1-1 against Banská Bystrica. Argentinian midfielder Ivan Santiago  Diaz put the hosts ahead with a header that compatriot and team-mate David Depetris would have been proud of. But Bystrica earned a point through Milan Ferenčík’s goal twenty minutes from full-time. ‘We weren’t short of ideas but we lacked concentration at times,’ saidTrenčín coach Adrián Guľa. ‘And you also have to say that Bystrica did a good job.’

Ružomberok were on a run of seven winless games going into the weekend fixtures, so they might have been happy that their Saturday opponents were crisis-hit Nitra. It was Nitra who took an early lead, however, as Andrej Ivančík’s low shot beat keeper Lukáš Zich at his near post. Zich will have been happy to watch from the other end as Mulumba Mukendi turned things round in the second-half, courtesy of two fine headed goals. Later, both coaches agreed that the game had been a battle rather than an exhibition of attractive football. Ladislav Jurkemík also concurred with Ladislav Šimčo’s assertion that Ruža had deserved the points.‘We were caught sleeping twice and got punished twice,’ said Jurkemík.

Slovan rounded the weekend off with a comfortable 3-1 win at home to Košice. The game was effectively decided inside the first half-hour, thanks to goals from Nicolas Gorosito, Lester Peltier and Marko Milinković. Dávid Škutka pulled one back for the visitors after 76 minutes, but they had given themselves far too much to do. Just like neighbours Prešov, Košice are formidable at home but struggle badly away. As for Slovan, the result is just what they needed after an awkward week off the field. They have been involved in a dispute with Digi Šport and some of their fellow Corgoň Liga clubs over attempts to rearrange their home game with Trnava, which fans had threatened to boycott when the TV company announced plans to screen it live on Friday 2nd November. It was also reported on Friday that Filip Šebo has played his last game for the club after refusing to sign a new contract. Clearly, however,there are still goals in the Slovan team, and they go into next week’s game at Žilina with a three-point lead at the top of the league.

Trnava 1 Žilina 2

Senica 2 Prešov 0

Zlaté Moravce 3 Myjava 1

Trenčín 1 Banská Bystrica 1

Ružomberok 2 Nitra 1

Slovan 3 Košice 1

 

James Baxter

2 responses so far

Oct 02 2012

Youngsters in the Corgon Liga

Published by under Domestic

Below are two quotes which I think define this Corgoň Liga season so far :

‘Our fans didn’t deserve that. It’s time to freshen the side up with some younger players.’

Myjava coach Ladislav Hudec, speaking after a 2-0 home defeat by Nitra in early August.

‘When you’ve gone four games without a win with older players in the team, it’s time to give the youngsters a chance.’ Žilina coach Frans Adelaar explaining changes to his line-up for the away game at Banská Bystrica in mid-September.

Myjava’s fortunes have improved since Hudec expressed his dissatisfaction. They are still not the league’s most youthful side but they recently terminated the contracts of veterans Zdeno Štrba and Pavol Straka (in very amicable fashion it has to be said – both players were publicly thanked for their services before a recent home game), while the likes of Slovakia’s Under-21 goalkeeper Michal Šulla and 23-year old Peter Sládek have been key figures in their rise up the table.

For their part, Žilina have sent established striker Tomáš Majtán on loan to Baník Ostrava, and dropped Peter Šulek to the B-team. 34-year old club captain Miroslav Barčík has only been used from the substitutes bench in recent weeks. By contrast, teenagers Milan Škriniar, Jaroslav Mihalík, Miroslav Kačer and Jean Deza have been getting opportunities in the starting line-up.

There are similar trends at other clubs. Vion Zlaté Moravce’s recent surge up the table is largely due to the excellent form of two former members of the Žilina academy, Michal Škvarka and Adam Žilák, both of whom have just turned 20. Trenčín sold two of their best players from last season, Lester Peltier and Filip Hlohovský, to Slovan Bratislava. Their places have been taken by teenager Marek Frimmel and 20-year old Jakub Holúbek, with Stanislav Lobotka, another teenager, also featuring regularly.

After Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Banská Bystrica, Slovan coach Samuel Slovák commented on the quality of the home team’s youngsters, two of whom, defender Norbert Gyömbér and midfielder Jakub Považanec, are regulars in the Under-21 squad. Gyömbér spent much of pre-season on an extended trial at Bundesliga club Wolfsburg, where he apparently achieved the rare feat of impressing head coach Felix Magath.

Ružomberok and Prešov are two clubs who have had to use their youngsters, due to spending the summer in financial penury. This didn’t prevent Ruža getting their season off to a highly impressive start (admittedly, they are currently going through a difficult spell), while one of Prešov’s better players at Žilina last week was another 18-year old – attacking midfielder Matúš Marcin.

We probably shouldn’t exaggerate the effect youth is having. Žilina, for example, are hardly dispensing with all their senior players. In fact, their youngsters must feel reassured by the experience and defensive qualities of centre-backs Jozef Piaček and Serge Akakpo and holding midfielder Viktor Pečovský. If the team is to retain its title this season, these three will have key roles to play.

Meanwhile, Slovan, the league’s most consistent team and thus current favourites for the title, rely on players who’ve been around a bit – Marko Milinković, Erik Grendel, Juraj Halenár – for their creativity and goals. They are also the Corgoň Liga club most likely to entice the best players of rival outfits, as shown by the signings of Hlohovský, Peltier and former Senica defender Nicolas Gorosito.

Yet it would also be remiss not to mention that, for all the tried and tested players in Slovan’s team, two regulars in defence, Kristian Kolčák and Lukáš Pauschek, came through the club’s academy. Teenager Karol Mészáros is currently making his way back after injury, but was one of the few to impress in the side’s generally dismal run-in to the end of last season.

Under-21 coach Ivan Galad recently named his 22-man squad for the forthcoming World Cup qualification play-off against Holland. Alongside the likes of Cardiff City’s Filip Kiss and Nuremberg’s Róbert Mak are 14 players from Corgoň Liga clubs, many of whom I’ve already namechecked here. It could be that a virtuous circle is beginning to develop. More first-team exposure for young players means more experience for the Under-21 team to draw on. If the Under-21 team makes use of this and does well, the next generation of youngsters might be more likely to consider staying longer inSlovakiato develop their careers. That would have a positive impact on the quality of the Corgoň Liga, hence better support from fans and sponsors.

We’ll have to wait and see if those things happen, but the presence of so much youthful talent may be what is making the league so unpredictable thus far. Vion had a slow start to the season but their form is now very much on an upward curve. The reverse is true of Ružomberok. Bystrica are regularly praised for the kind of football they play, while Trenčín are entertaining whether they win, lose or draw. Long term benefits are not, the youngsters are at least helping to make this season fun to observe.

James Baxter

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Sep 23 2012

Corgon Liga Update 23-Sep

Published by under Domestic

The temptation to mix carpet metaphors is too strong to resist. Nitra and their star player Seydouba Soumah were, as the Slovaks say, ‘on the carpet’ at the SFZ disciplinary committee on Thursday, answering to the various misdemeanours committed at their home fixture with Trnava the previous week. Soumah was fined 3,400 Euros and banned from football for six months for (this is going to be a long list) an obscene gesture at Trnava fans, stamping on Patrik Čarnota’s chest (for which he was shown a red card), attempting to punch Miroslav Karhan and threatening referee Marek Mastiš. Two other players who were sent off, Marián Kolmokov and Marek Szabo, received bans of three games and one game respectively. As a club, Nitra were fined 10,000 Euros, kicked out of the Slovak Cup and deducted any points gained in their following league game.

There was also an interesting ‘mea culpa‘ from the SFZ in their admission that 26-year old Mastiš was a poor choice of referee for a fixture at which there have been problems in the past. They did, however, decree that Mastiš should have abandoned the game after Soumah’s attack on him. As a result of that mistake, he will not be allowed to officiate in the Corgoň Liga or II Liga until next spring. As for the allegations by Soumah and his club that Trnava players were racially abusing him, the committee ruled that they could not follow up on these at present. None of the match officials heard anything untoward, while Soumah himself was unable to name names. Unsurprisingly, Trnava denied the allegations, though senior player Peter Čvirik did admit that Soumah had been identified as Nitra’s main attacking threat and had thus been subjected to some uncomprising tackles. After all that, we can only hope the second metaphor, the one about ‘sweeping (things) under the carpet’, is not applicable.

Just a personal footnote, though ; Soumah’s last appearance before the fateful Trnava game was at Žilina. He gave easily the most exciting individual performance I’ve seen this season and his slalom through the home defence, ending in an effort that was brilliantly saved by Martin Dúbravka, was an especially memorable passage of play. His skills will be missed during his ban.

As luck would have it, Slovan Bratislava were the team effectively granted a ‘free hit’ at Nitra. They took full advantage, winning 5-2 at Pasienky. Juraj Halenár scored the first and last goals, with Nicolas Gorosito, Lester Peltier and Filip Hlohovský adding the others. Slovan coach Samuel Slovák was sympathetic to his beaten visitors, praising Nitra’s fighting spirit and ability to cause problems going forward. More interestingly, he uttered a curt ‘no comment‘ when asked why Filip Šebo had not figured in his squad.

Žilina were desperate for a win at home to Prešov, both to bring the gap between themselves and Slovan back to three points and to end a run of five games without a victory. Coach Frans Adelaar has been having a sort out in the dressing-room, sending Tomáš Majtán on loan to Baník Ostrava, putting Peter Šulek in the B-team and introducing several teenagers to first-team action. A 3-0 win over the easterners provided early vindication of this policy. Jakub Paur, Ricardo Nunes and Momodou Ceesay were the scorers.

None of the three sides who went into the weekend level on points with Žilina managed to claim victory. Trenčín were held to a 0-0 draw at home to Ružomberok. ‘They played better football than us but that doesn’t mean they have to win,’ said Ruža coach Ladislav Šimčo afterwards.

Košice lost 3-1 away to Myjava, for whom captain Martin Černáček scored twice. His first goal arrived in the opening minute, following a bad mistake by visiting goalkeeper Darko Tofiloski. ‘That influenced the whole match,’ said Košice coach Ján Kozák. ‘It made our defence uncertain.You don’t normally see mistakes like that, even in lower league football.’

As for form side Vion Zlaté Moravce, they were swept aside 3-0 at Senica. The goals here were all scored in the last half-hour. Juraj Piroška got the first from the penalty-spot and Jaroslav Černý added the others. Vion coach Juraj Jarábek was in no mood for excuses after the game. ‘Senica fully deserved to win,’ he admitted. ‘They wanted it more than us and they showed more quality.’

Trnava went into their game with Banská Bystrica with an embarrassing home record of P5 W0 D2 L3 F1 A10. At the sixth time of asking, they sent their fans home happy, thanks to Peter Čvirik’s header from a right-wing corner. Oddly enough though, the result was not enough to lift them off the bottom of the table. Still, the league is now strikingly condensed, as just seven points separate Trnava from second-placed Žilina with ten rounds of fixtures played. Such unpredictability is surely no bad thing. And let’s also hope for less action in the disciplinary committee room over coming weeks.

Slovan 5 Nitra 2

Žilina 3 Prešov 0

Trenčín 0 Ružomberok 0

Myjava 3 Košice 1

Senica 3 Zlaté Moravce 0

Trnava 1 Banská Bystrica 0

 James Baxter

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Sep 19 2012

Corgon Liga Round-up

Published by under Domestic

Spartak Trnava should be celebrating their first win of the season. But it seems that their game at Nitra on Friday night, which they won 3-1, was not an occasion that did anyone proud. Nitra had three men sent-off, the first two somewhat harshly. The third, Seydouba Soumah, saw red for treading on Patrik Čarnota’s chest. He then attempted to punch Miroslav Karhan and seemed on the point of attacking referee Marek Mastiš, before finally leaving the field. Nitra coach Ladislav Jurkemík refused to comment afterwards beyond saying that ‘this game had nothing to do with football‘. Meanwhile, a statement by SFZ president Ján Kovačik, expressing concern at events at both Nitra and the Trenčín v Myjava match, raises questions about what may or may not have gone on. It mentions, variously, controversial refereeing decisions, unsporting behaviour, vulgarity and, most disturbingly, racism and intolerance.

There were no red cards during Trenčín’s 3-2 win over Myjava, but there is a clue to what caused Kovačik concern here in the post-match words of Myjava coach Ladislav Hudec. To take the goals first, the prolific David Depetris put Trenčín ahead, only for Matej Siva and Vladimír Kukoľ to turn things round for the visitors. Depetris equalised with ten minutes left, then had a chance to complete a hat-trick when his team were awarded a last-minute penalty. He missed, but Tomáš Malec followed up to score from the rebound. Hudec was full of praise for Trenčín, who, he said ‘were better than us in most respects’, but criticised the referee for being ‘very weak all round’. More incriminatingly, he claimed that the official had told the players he didn’t see the foul for which he awarded the penalty, but ‘knew there must have been one’.

Senica move above Myjava into tenth place following their 2-0 win away to Ružomberok. Goals from Jaroslav Diviš and the returning Juraj Piroška (a penalty) did the damage here. Ruža’s excellent start to the season suddenly looks in danger of dissolving. Their already small squad is being stretched by long suspensions for Peter Maslo and Mulumba Mukendi, and those who are eligible to play look ‘nervous’, according to coach Ladislav Šimčo.

Prešov and Košice served up a dire 0-0 draw in the eastern Slovak derby. One measure of what sort of  game this was is that the second-half didn’t produce a single incident deemed worthy of inclusion on TV highlights packages. Instead, viewers were treated to pictures of the two sets of fans engaging in intelligent debate across the segregation fence. At least neither coach tried to kid anyone into thinking that his team deserved three points. Košice’s Ján Kozák will, however, be happy to have steered his side into joint second place, level on points with Vion, Žilina and Trenčín.

After Žilina and Trnava, leaders Slovan Bratislava became the third fancied side in succession to receive a footballing lesson at Vion’s hands, losing 3-1. Andrej Hodek, Lukáš Kováč and Adam Žilák were the home side’s scorers, while Erik Grendel’s long-range effort gave Slovan short-lived hope. Slovan coach Samuel Slovák described the game as ‘interesting’ and lamented the fact that his players had helped their opponents by making individual mistakes. The crowd, 3,387, was a big one by Vion’s standards. It can’t be said often enough, though, that this is a club that deserves all the admiration going, for the way they’re run and for the football they play.

The weekend programme was completed by Banská Bystrica’s 2-2 draw at home to Žilina on Sunday evening. Bystrica were twice ahead, through Tomáš Hučka and Matúš Turňa, with Jaroslav Mihalík and Jakub Paur replying for Žilina. Paur’s goal, coming as it did in the 90th minute, will have been a particular source of frustration for Bystrica. They are just behind the group of teams contesting second place, but would be in more serious pursuit of Slovan were it not for an inability to turn home draws into wins. As for Žilina, their home game with Prešov next week is a less than attractive prospect. Dutch coach Frans Adelaar will surely settle for a first win in six games, even if there’s little ‘total football’ on display.

 James Baxter

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Sep 03 2012

Slovan Increase Corgon Liga lead

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Another narrow win, another increase in Slovan Bratislava’s lead at the top of the Corgoň Liga. On Saturday, Ružomberok were the unfortunate visitors to Pasienky. ‘Unfortunate’ is the key word here because Ruža created, and missed, a succession of fine chances. Slovan took an early lead when Filip Šebo, who these days seems to set up as many goals as he scores, escaped down the right and crossed for Marko Milinković to convert from close-range. On 49 minutes, Oliver Práznovský headed a long overdue equaliser from Mário Almaský’s centre. But 20 minutes later, after more Ruža misses, Slovan’s Juraj Halenár showed how to finish, rattling home from a tight angle after being set up by Jiří Kladrubský’s pass.

Ladislav Šimčo, the Ruža coach, was incredulous after the game. ‘You don’t often see as many chances as that created against Slovan,’ he said, ‘and I’ve never seen us create so many in one game.’ His opposite number, Samuel Slovák, was typically honest in his assessment, admitting that ‘Ružomberok played very well and we needed a lot of luck’. Still, Slovan would appear to have the league’s best squad, and they now have a four-point cushion over their nearest rivals. If and when they start producing 90-minute performances, they could well run away with this season’s title. Sadly, the crowd of just 1,492 suggests that the Bratislava public will take a little more convincing.

Referee Richard Trutz had a busy afternoon at the Žilina v Nitra game. The five yellow cards he waved at Nitra players were rather less significant than the red shown to Žilina defender Jozef Piaček after 43 minutes. Piaček had wrestled Arnold Šimonek to the ground inside the penalty-area and, as he made for the dressing-room, Vratislav Gajdoš put Nitra ahead from the spot. The second-half hinged on two key incidents halfway through. First,Nitra’s Seydouba Soumah went on a Messi-esque slalom through the Žilina defence. His first effort was blocked by ‘keeper Martin Dúbravka who then somehow scrambled to his feet to tip Soumah’s header from the rebound over the bar. Play then switched to the other end, where Vladimír Leitner, who’d come on as a half-time sub to fill the gap left by Piaček, smashed home the equaliser from20 yards. One thing’s for sure ; there are few better 38-year-old goalscoring defenders around than Leitner. As for Trutz, he ought to have one or two questions to answer. Not about his handling of the game (most of his decisions were correct, including the sending-off) but about the fact that he allowed it to kick-off a full three minutes early.

Košice drew level on points with Žilina courtesy of a 1-0 home win over Banská Bystrica. The only goal arrived on the half-hour when Uroš Matič swung in a free-kick and Juraj Hovančík headed home. After the game, both coaches agreed that Košice had controlled the first-half, with Bystrica dominating the second. It was noticeable, however, that Bystrica never really troubled Darko Tofiloski in the home goal. Their scoring record, currently standing at seven from their eight matches, needs to improve if they are to challenge in the league’s top half. As for Košice, their perfect home record is stimulating a little local interest. 1,730, the crowd for the Bystrica game, is hardly a brilliant turnout but is a definite improvement on the sub-1,000 attendances they regularly recorded last season.

Followers of Spartak Myjava will also be growing in optimism after Saturday’s 2-0 win against visitors Prešov. Myjava were the better side throughout, but needed the 60th minute introduction of Michal Dian to add incisiveness to their superiority. Three minutes after coming on, he supplied the cross from which Peter Sládek broke the deadlock. Ten minutes later, the substitute himself curled home a left-footed shot from just outside the penalty area. Myjava coach Ladislav Hudec later commented on the post-match celebrations among the home fans. He can surely count on more good backing in two weeks time, when his team make the short trip to Trenčín. As for Prešov, their performance was insipid, but at least they can now put concerns over their away form to one side as their next fixture is also a local derby – at home to Košice.

The Senica v Trenčín game was largely a tale of two of the Corgoň Liga’s best goalscorers. After 74 minutes, Trenčín’s David Depetris, having been fouled in the box, made it double figures for the season from the penalty-spot. Almost immediately, though, Pavol Masaryk, scorer of 20 goals for Ružomberok in 2011/2012, rescued a point for Senica. The game then finished on a bad-tempered note as Senica’s Adam Varadi was sent off. The consensus between the coaches afterwards was that Trenčín had played the better football, further evidence, perhaps, that Senica are still struggling to cope with the changes to coaching and playing personnel that took place at the club over the summer.

Trnava’s hopes that successive draws at Žilina and Ružomberok might herald an upturn in their fortunes were dashed in emphatic fashion when they were thrashed 5-0 at home by Vion Zlaté Moravce in the Sunday fixture. Andrej Hodek scored a hat-trick for Vion, with Michal Škvarka and Lukáš Mihalík adding the other goals. The game was watched by a crowd of 3,912, easily the best of the weekend, but the Trnava public will not stand for results like this. Indeed, it is now difficult to see coach Pavel Hoftych holding onto his job. While Trnava are three points adrift at the bottom of the league, Vion are getting over a difficult start to the season and are reacquainting themselves with the calm surroundings of mid-table.

Slovan 2 Ružomberok 1

Žilina 1 Nitra 1

Košice 1 Banská Bystrica 0

Myjava 2 Prešov 0

Senica 1 Trenčín 1

Trnava 0 Zlaté Moravce 5

James Baxter 

 

 

 

 

 

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Aug 26 2012

Corgon Liga Update 26-August

Published by under Domestic

Žilina’s draw with Trnava on Tuesday left Slovan Bratislava a point clear at the top of the Corgoň Liga going into the weekend’s matches. Slovan’s lead is now two points, but they will probably be irritated by their failure to win an entertaining contest away to Trenčín. The game really came to life in the couple of minutes just before half-time. David Depetris scored his eighth goal of the season for the hosts, following excellent build-up play by Ivan Diaz and Jakub Holúbek. Seconds later, teenager Stanislav Lobotka was shown a red card for dragging down Marko Milinković inside the penalty-area and Filip Šebo equalised from the spot.

Mid-way through the second-half, another foul on Milinković led to Slovan taking the lead. This time the offence occurred just outside the box and it was the Serbian midfielder himself who curled the ball past ‘keeper Miloš Volešák. Trenčín’s ten men kept going and Depetris earned them a point with a penalty after Filip Hlohovský had hauled down Peter Čögley. To his credit, Slovan coach Samuel Slovák did not question the award of Trenčín’s penalty, even though contact appeared, at least from the TV pictures, to be made outside the box rather than inside.

The sides just below Slovan also failed to win. Žilina produced an apathetic-looking performance away to Vion Zlaté Moravce and were beaten 1-0. The only goal was scored by Michal Škvarka, a player Vion signed on loan from their visitors during the close-season. Afterwards, both coaches talked about preparation ; Vion’s Juraj Jarábek was happy with the way his team was ‘100% prepared’, while opposite number Frans Adelaar noted that ‘although we always talk about the importance of being properly prepared, 70% of my players were unfocused and seemed to think the game was going to be easy’.

Ružomberok would have drawn level on points with Slovan if they’d been able to overcome visitors Trnava. In fact, a 2-2 draw is not a bad result, considering that Ruža played 70 minutes with ten men and finished with only nine. All the goals arrived in the first-half. Patrik Gross diverted Filip Serečin’s cross into his own net to put the hosts ahead, only for Miroslav Karhan to equalise with a direct free-kick, awarded for a foul by Peter Maslo on Vlastimil Stožický for which the Ruža defender was sent off. On 27 minutes, Jiří Koubský brought down Mulumba Mukendi and Tomáš Ďubek’s penalty put the ten men ahead again. Back came Trnava, and Stevo Nikolič seized on a rebound, after his own header had been blocked, to complete the scoring. That wasn’t the end of the action, though ; both sides had chances to win the game in an up-and-down second period. In the final minute, Mukendi was shown a straight red card for a clumsy high challenge on Patrik Čarnota.

Passions were still running high in the post-match interviews. ‘I’m still emotional so it’s best if I don’t comment on the referee,’ said Ďubek. His coach, Ladislav Šimčo, was less circumspect when, referring to the fouls by Maslo and Koubský, he claimed that ‘our player was sent-off and theirs wasn’t, even though the offences were similar’. Trnava are now bottom of the league and are the only side without a win. ‘We need to improve,’ said Karhan.

Banská Bystrica, another side who could have joined Slovan on 14 points, were involved in a frustrating 0-0 draw with a Prešov team which is beginning to earn a reputation as a bunch of spoilers. There were few real chances. Bystrica’s Jozef Rejdovian hit the post with a header and there were a couple of frantic scrambles in the visitors’ penalty-area but, as home coach Norbert Hrnčár pointed out, ‘it’s hard to create chances when they put ten players in their own box and there’s no space’. Prešov aren’t apologising to anyone. This is their first away point of the season and, together with their 100% home record, the result sees them occupying a comfortable mid-table position.

Košice need to rediscover some resiliance following a 4-1 hammering at Nitra. Curiously, all the goals in this game came when Nitrawere down to ten men following the 35th minute sending-off of Miloš Šimončič. Seydouba Soumah put Nitra ahead on the stroke of half-time, and David Škutka’s 53rd minute equaliser was merely the prelude to a period of dominance which saw Martin Boszorád and Cléber Silva Nasciemento (twice) add further goals.Nitra coach Ladislav Jurkemík said this was the first time a team of his had ever won after going a man down. He also noted that Košice were ‘more dangerous when we had eleven players’. His visiting counterpart, Ján Kozák, is no doubt saving long speeches for the training-ground. ‘It was chaotic and we deserved to lose,’ was all he would say to the press.

But perhaps the real story of the weekend is Myjava’s first ever Corgoň Liga victory, achieved on Friday night away to local rivals Senica. The game was almost the mirror-image of the newly-promoted team’s defeat by Banská Bystrica last week, where they had most of the play and chances only to lose to a late goal. Here, Roland Blackburn missed three good opportunities for Senica and his team paid the price when, in the 79th minute, Martin Černáček converted Peter Sládek’s right-wing cross.

Černáček, as one of Myjava’s part-time players, trains three times a week. He is also a manager of a firm which produces home fittings, and typically works ten-hour days, often travelling away on business. ‘It’s not easy to prepare for games,’ he says, ‘but I’m managing all right so far.’ Myjava remain second from bottom of the league but their performances have mostly been quite creditable so far. If results also continue to improve, their way of doing things may well be of some appeal to other smallish clubs. Meanwhile their fans, 700 of whom made the journey to Senica, are keeping up their encouragement.

Trenčín 2 Slovan 2

Zlaté Moravce 1 Žilina 0

Ružomberok 2 Trnava 2

Banská Bystrica 0 Prešov 0

Nitra 4 Košice 1

Senica 0 Myjava 1

 

James Baxter

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Aug 06 2012

Latest News from Corgon Liga

Published by under Domestic

 

In the unlikely event that there’s anyone out there who’s been clicking on this site over the past three weeks in eager anticipation of Slovak league updates, I apologise. Suffice it to say that most Corgoň Liga teams have had inconsistent starts to the season and thus the table, after four  rounds of fixtures, looks a little topsy-turvy.

 

Last season’s cup-finallists, Žilina and Senica, met at Štadión pod Dubňom on Saturday. Róbert Pich, one of the shortest players on the pitch, headed two fine goals in 13 first-half minutes to secure a 2-0 home win. It would have been more comfortable still if Miroslav Barčík hadn’t missed a 45th minute penalty following Jan Kalabiška’s foul on Tomáš Majtán, for which the Senica defender was sent-off. With Senica concentrating on damage-limitation and Žilina losing focus at times, the second period was no great spectacle. Still, the result leaves the hosts as the league’s only unbeaten side and continues their recovery from theirearly Champions League exit. For Senica, who are also out of Europe, this was a third league defeat in four games. They are clearly still getting used to new coach Zdeněk Psotka, and to the loss of Petr Bolek, Nicolas Gorosito and Tomáš Strnad, three of last season’s key players.

 

MFK Košice continued their encouraging start with a 3-0 home win over Trenčín. All the goals came in the last 18 minutes, with Dávid Škutka’s two strikes following Ján Novák’s penalty. Coaches Ján Kozák and Adrián Guľa agreed that it had been an ‘excellent game, with both sides wanting to play good football’. With Kozák back in charge, Košice’s struggles of the last two seasons could soon be a distant memory. As for Trenčín, they will be a difficult proposition for everyone on their own artificial pitch, but they will also want to return to the sort of away form they showed during their climb up the table last spring.

 

Ružomberok undid some of their good work of the first three games by conceding two soft goals in the first 18 minutes of their match at Prešov. New signings Branimir Kostadinov and Jozef Adámik were the players to benefit from the visitors’ defensive generosity, and Ruža were unable to reduce the deficit. Still, considering that these two clubs were enveloped in crises during pre-season, they can still be fairly happy with their starts ; Ruža, with seven points, remain locked in a six-club dispute for first place, while Prešov are just one point behind.

 

Banská Bystrica were Šport’s nomination as the team most likely to make a significant improvement this seasonThey too have seven points from four games but they would have hoped for better than a 0-0 draw from Saturday’s home contest with Vion Zlaté Moravce. Vion coach Juraj Jarábek admitted afterwards that, following his side’s poor start to the season (one point from three games, with seven goals conceded), his priority had been to improve their defensive organisation and cancel out Bystrica’s attacking strengths. It will be interesting to see if Bystrica can fulfil Šport’s expectations of them over the coming weeks, while Vion are surely good enough to start climbing away from the bottom places.

 

Nitra started the season with a 5-0 hammering at Trenčín but seem to have quickly learned their lessons. A 2-0 win at newly promoted Spartak Myjava on Saturday saw them become yet another team to reach the seven point mark. Miloš Šimončič and Seydouba Soumah scored the decisive goals. Myjava’s return of two points from their first three games was respectable enough considering that they’d faced both Žilina and Trnava away from home. However, Nitra at home is the type of fixture that really needs to be won. As coach Ladislav Hudec gloomily admitted after the defeat, ‘with performances like that, we can only talk about a relegation battle. Our home support deserve better.’ It should be noted that only Trnava are currently getting significantly better attendances than Myjava.

 

Trnava are closer to Myjava in terms of league position ; a 1-0 defeat to Slovan Bratislava in Sunday’s derby leaves them with just two points from three games (their match at Žilina was postponed due to the clubs’ respective European commitments). Slovan, for whom formerplaying legend Samuel Slovák recently took over as caretaker-coach following Vladimír Weiss’s sudden departure, secured their victory thanks to Filip Hlohovský’s goal on the stroke of half-time. Guess how many points they have now…..

 

Trnava will be concerned by their start to the league season, especially considering that all the games they’ve played have been at home – their supposed fortress. However, they are the only Slovak club left in European competition this season, and have an exciting night to look forward to this Thursday, when they play Steaua Bucharest in the second leg of their Europa League 3rd qualifying round tie. Trnava hold a 1-0 lead but level-headed coach Pavel Hoftych is telling everyone who’ll listen that the Romanian side remain the favourites to progress. In that case, good luck to the underdogs.

 

Žilina 2 Senica 0

Košice 3 Trenčín 0

Prešov 2 Ružomberok 0

Banská Bystrica 0 Zlaté Moravce 0

Myjava 0 Nitra 2

Trnava 0 Slovan 1

James Baxter


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