Archive for the 'Pohar' Category

Sep 12 2012

Eurovision Long Contest Part 2

Published by under Pohar

And, of course, it transpires there’s another way for Rangers to grab headlines all across Europe: Go into financial meltdown and be forced to begin life all over again as a fourth tier club. Just seven weeks after the Britski Belasi boys did me the solid of posting the first part of my European yarn on their cosmopolitan blog – less than two months on from my heart-felt assertion that Rangers’ only true environment, for me, was continental competition – my club went into administration and began a footballing adventure with a far blacker conclusion than any away goals exit to Viktoria Zizkov or Sparta Praha. Liquidation was confirmed in June and while there’s every reason to say the current incarnation is a brand new Rangers, different from the club founded in 1872, what’s beyond doubt is that their only true environment is the one in which they presently find themselves: The Scottish Football League Third Division.

This isn’t a tale or a fate unbeknown to followers of Slavic football. I still find myself trawling the internet for the historical whereabouts of the Red Star and the Inter of Bratislava. But while the first part of this particular tale of mine lamented Rangers’ inability to realise the scale of their infrastructure on the European stage, there can be no doubt their fiscal disintegration has created a Scottish football story as globally famous as Celtic’s European Cup win of 1967. Juventus and River Plate, clubs which have scaled greater heights than Rangers, may have suffered recent relegations but, like Manchester United and Liverpool back in the day, the second tier was as far as they sunk. Fiorentina and Lokomotive Leipzig’s bankruptcies saw European finalists crashing and burning into the netherworld of their domestic lower leagues, yes, but neither of these famous institutions could claim a 140-year history or boast of having won their own national title more than any club on the planet, ever. 

So you’ll forgive me for taking so long to offer a continuation to Eurovision Long Contest – it’s been a devestating seven months, on so many levels, since last we spoke. And I’ll forgive you a titter at the irony of Part 1, in which this Bluenose of 35 years declared Rangers must do better in UEFA competition, and now sees them banned from it for three years and unable to qualify for the Champions League for at least four. I wanted Rangers to raise their profile on the continent and, whaddayaknow, it’s even higher now than when our nutter fringe was rioting through Manchester in 2008. That very desire on my part, that lust for European silver, was at the heart of Rangers’ liquidation. The sick irony continues into the fact that the financial disintegration occurred with me having finally witnessed the minimum I needed from Rangers on the international stage. The natural conclusion to Part 1′s narrative of personal ambition for my club was that we did indeed reach a European final. The UEFA Cup showpiece, against Zenit St Petersburg on 14th May 2008, at what was then the City of Manchester Stadium, was a highlight of my life and potentially The highlight of my football life. The aforementioned rioting put a serious dampner on it, and losing the match itself didn’t help, but it was almost the very moment for which Jagger and Richards coined “You can’t always get what you want …”

David Murray was the Rangers owner who, for me, tried more than sometimes. He tried, so very hard, all the time. Three and a half decades in the Rangers trenches had made me ultra aware of what my hopes and ambitions were for my club. I wanted us to win the European Cup, the Champions League. Hey - if the Rangers of 2012 is the same club then I still do. But what I needed, what I truly needed to see before I died, was us simply reaching a European final. I just had to see Rangers walk down a neutral tunnel, past a big UEFA trophy and onto a pristine pitch being watched by every armchair anorak on the continent. Against Zenit St Petersburg, we did just that and in the few years immediately after that final I thought I could die happy. Instead, Rangers died. Parents should never bury their children – fans should never out-live their club. But when there’s murder afoot the natural order is affronted. 

David Murray’s constant great endeavour of the last 23 years received little or no praise from the Rangers support, the loudest and most critical of whom had mostly been attracted to the club by his late 80s and early 90s work. In a final effort to give us EVERYTHING we wanted, he applied a tax avoidance system which Revenue and Customs called tax evasion. At the time of writing the matter is still in dispute but the potentail ramifications gave the Ibrox ingrates, the Murray-haters all the ammunition they needed.  He was forced to sell. He had no reason not to. A new owner called Whyte was welcomed with open arms by those who didn’t know or never appreciated what they had in Murray and within months Whyte, an asset stripper, had driven one of Europe’s most famous clubs into the ground.

Reaching that UEFA Cup Final took the edge off my European obsession. Losing Rangers has taken the edge off my love of football. For now at least. An instinct which kicked in when I was seven won’t ever disappear. But nothing makes you realise how much of a trickle-down effect your club has on your passion for all soccer than the loss of that very club. It’s been a crystalization where the crystal cuts deep. I’m too busy stemming the internal bleeding, too deeply immersed in the innards of Rangers, trapped in the present day car crash of Scottish football, to properly re-engage with what now seems like an innocent, almost naive fixation on the pan-European.  But this is merely an exacerbation of the disadvantage I was already at when I scrawled Part 1. 

Even if Rangers had remained financially stable since December 2011, even if we were still flying as high as it’s possible to fly in the SPL,  I’d still be scrambling to recount fast-fading memories of emotional responses to European sides. When trying to describe a thirst, there’s nothing worse than supping a big cool glass of water. Manchester, Zenit and the penalties semi-final victory over Fiorentina which got us there, just quench, quench, quenched. To properly recount how my tale relates to, or even just includes Czech and Slovak clubs, I would have been better to tell it before 14th May 2008.

The first European club final I watched after applauding both Zenit and Rangers around the City of Manchester Stadium in fact featured Manchester United, and Chelsea. So I thought the slight decrease in interest I felt when watching this game on TV was down to the Match of the Day familiarity of the fixture. Even if it was being played in Moscow this was an all-English game. I’d attended plenty of those over the years, journeying south from Glasgow to add some reality to the Anglo TV pictures we’d been receiving north of Hadrian’s Wall for decades. English games are touristic for me in a British sense but seem far too run-of-the-mill, too domestic, to constitute a truly exciting European final. And perhaps the Champions League final of 2008, coming just a week after the biggest match of my life, was always bound to pale in my personal emotional slipstream.

But when back on the sofa for the following season’s UEFA Cup final - and it doesn’t get more polyglot than Shakhtar Donetsk and Werder Bremen trading Bazilian goals on the Asian side of the Bosphorous - the full impact of Rangers-Zenit 2008 kicked in: A personal catharsis was suddenly apparent. I realised that my preoccupation with European club finals – memorising every winner and runner-up of all three competitions since they began in the mid-fifties, maintaining a vast video collection of each season’s finals since the early 90s, and trying to see all 101 European finalists in the flesh – had been as fuelled by Rangers’ inability to reach one of these ultimate glamour matches since I was out of nappies as it was by my natural xenophilia. 

I was so deeply absorbed in the history of European competition because I so deeply wanted Rangers to be making that very kind of history again. When your club keeps missing out on European finals during your lifetime yet has reached those finals several times in the past, when your main rival in domestic competition and greatest foe on earth has won the biggest European trophy of them all but your club hasn’t, and when your domestic league forces you to play the same teams four times a season for over 30 years, you will cling to all that is foreign, different, adventurous and just downright full of exponential possiblity: You will be consumed by the avenues available for proper glory, for genuinely new heights; Your imagination goes to what could happen in the future to break up the monotonous aspects of the past and present. I fixated on one particular goal for my club - and eventually, like the narrative arc of a chivalric romance, I got that Rangers European final – but for the 30 years I supported Rangers prior to Manchester, most seasons resulted in continetal disappointment, and absolutely no finals. So, by way of psychological compensation, I would continually gaze into two worlds experienced only by others: 

Firstly, I would eat up all the stats on European club football history and watch the finals of all three, then both competitions each season, like they were some kind of soccer porn. Secondly, sticking with fantasy, I’d imagine what it must have been like to be a Rangers fan of the previous generation, when our club made three finals in 11 years (four if you want to throw in the Super Cup, which Rangers inadvertantly invented to compensate for our European ban of 1972/73 and mark our centenary season, by inviting European Cup-holders Ajax for a home-and-away gig). So I’d ask my uncle about it. He’d tell me about the greatest Ibrox atmosphere of his life, against Torino in the quarter-final of that riotously triumphant 71/72 Cup-Winners’ Cup campaign. Our window cleaner, a doyen of the local Rangers Supporters Association, was older still and he recalled many Rangers fans actually being pleased for Celtic in 1967, sure that if our historically inferior derby rivals could lift the European Cup, Rangers would soon follow suit.

My dad recounted the apocryphal tale of England’s World Cup-winning captain Bobby Moore, coming off the pitch at Wembley in 1967 having just lost to Scotland and remarking to John Greig of Rangers and Bobby Lennox of Celtic, “Oh well, lads – at least that’s another season over”, to which the Old Firm duo replied, “Not for us, Bobby - we’ve still got the European Cup and Cup Winners’-Cup finals to play”. I’d scour any football book for pictures and tales of Rangers inEurope in the sixties and early 70s – and Red Star Bratislava featured in a way I never realised would become so painfully apt. 

Alex Anderson

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May 09 2012

Zilina 3-2 Senica, Cup Final

Published by under Domestic,Pohar

 

I still tend to the view that the SFZ are hopeless rather than malicious. But if they truly are on a mission to reduce interest in the final of the Slovak Cup, perhaps they should tell the competing teams to stop producing exciting matches. It was an excellent contest at Partizan Bardejov’s stadium on Tuesday, with Žilina finally winning their first ever domestic knockout trophy, 3-2 over Senica after extra-time.

 

The game had everything a final should ; two well-matched sides with contrasting styles, goals (three of which were beauties), saves and fine individual performances. The result means that Žilina’s Frans Adelaar can celebrate an honour, less than a month after his appointment as coach. Presumably, he will acknowledge that, to a large extent, he is reaping the fruits of others’ work with the team. Senica’s Stanislav Griga, meanwhile, cannot possibly fault the efforts of his players, but will be disappointed he is not going to end his club coaching career with a trophy.

 

Before 10 minutes were up, it was already 1-1. Tomáš Majtán headed Žilina in front after Peter Šulek had robbed Pedro Leal and crossed from the right. Tomáš Kóňa quickly replied with a curling 25-yard free-kick. Even by this stage, the sides were living up to stereotype. Senica were strong and physical, with Tomáš Strnad imposing himself and Jaroslav Diviš causing problems with his pace. Žilina, for their part, were trying to pass and move, mostly through captain Miroslav Barčík.

 

Barčík it was who put Žilina back in front three minutes into the second-half. He took Šulek’s pass, shuffled past a defender and thrashed the ball home from just outside the area. The goal ushered in his team’s best spell of the game, and they had chances to increase their lead. But Senica proved their durability by coming back into it again. With 18 minutes left, another wonderful strike from Kóňa made it 2-2. The winning goal, 12 minutes into the extra half-hour, was cruel on Senica. Substitute Jean Deza raced down the inside-right channel and his attempted cross deflected off Leal and looped over Peter Bolek into the net. Amidst the celebrations, there would have been relief for Majtán who, just moments earlier, had missed an open goal after a Ricardo Nunes free-kick had hit the post and rebounded straight to his feet.

 

Well done to the teams then, but what about the occasion as a whole? First of all, at least the public of Bardejov responded, buying up (according to a Partizan source) all the tickets allocated to them. It’s undeniable too that work had been done at the ground and to the pitch, which, despite heavy rain, was in acceptable condition. Even so, the surroundings were barely adequate. After their respective long journeys, Žilina and Senica fans found themselves sitting out in the open, low down and miles behind the goals. I can’t imagine they got much a view of the action. On one side of the pitch, opposite the main stand, the running-track (if that is what it was) was covered in mud and puddles. If anything, this favoured Žilina, as it meant that Strnad couldn’t generate much momentum when running up to take his long throw-ins.

 

In essence, and this is not a criticism of Partizan, or of Bardejov itself, the final should have been played elsewhere – for now, I’m sticking to my nomination of Ružomberok as a venuethat would please most partiesI’m not sure such a suggestion would cut much ice with the SFZ, however. In fact, if a press-conference given a month or so ago by president Ján Kováčik is any guide, the association appears to need a reminder of the recent history of the competition it supposedly organises. ‘It’s a long time since we’ve held a match like this in the east of Slovakia,’ said Kováčik, seemingly unaware that an eastern town (Michalovce) staged the final just two years ago. That, I’d say, pretty much backs up the charge of incompetence against him and his ‘organisation’.

 

Still, let’s try to end positively and name one or two players who could be destined for better things. For Žilina, Deza once again reminded us of his talent. He has mainly been used in short spells this spring, and clearly has a lot to learn. But, aged just 18, he also has plenty of time to learn it. Róbert Pich was a little quieter than in some recent games, but still had some good moments and is really beginning to fulfil his potential. Senica’s Kóňa was probably the best player on the pitch, however. Not only for his goals but for an almost immaculate all-round performance. Griga’s involvement with the Slovakia set-up should, rightly, ensure that he will soon get the chance to revive his international career.

James Baxter

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Apr 19 2011

Cup Semi Final Crunch Time

Published by under Domestic,Pohar

Tonight sees the 2nd legs of the two semi-finals of the domestic cup in Slovakia.  I must admit when the two Manchester teams entered the field at Wembley last Saturday I felt a certain excitement at the fact the English FA Cup semi-finals now have to be decided on the day.  No replays, just extra time, penalties, whatever it takes, there will be a winner.

Having attended the 1st leg of Slovan Bratislava v Spartak Trnava 2 weeks ago, on a pleasant evening, under floodlights, I can’t help but feel disappointed that these matches are played over 2 legs.  Although the discussion over neutral grounds is a complicated one in Slovakia [last season Slovan & Trnava played the final on the other side of the country] the situation still exists that if Slovan make the final this season they will play on ‘home’ turf.  However, with Slovan and Pasienky, home turf is a term that can be used very loosely, the fans hate the place and it’s hardly an intimidating atmosphere for visiting sides.

Also, a significant number of Spartak fans probably stayed away from the first leg knowing the real showdown would be on their patch 2 weeks later.  Having said all this, the first leg was a good game, hardly a humdinger, but not bad, by Slovak standards.  Slovan came back to 2-2 having gone 0-2 down, surrendering a slight advantage to their bitter rivals going into tonight’s 2nd leg.

In terms of form, Slovan should be able to overcome the slight handicap of Trnava’s two away goals.  Slovan recently won 3-1 at Trnava in the league and are on a superb run of form comprising of 5 straight league victories.  On paper Slovan have a stronger team and should expect to win again tonight, when it really counts.  Trnava by contrast have realised they cannot keep touch at the top of the league and lost to bottom of the table Dubnica last weekend.

Writing this makes me realise that perhaps Trnava have targetted the cup as their ticket into Europe next season.  If they haven’t, they bloody well should!  Zilina and Slovan are locked in a high-pressure race for the Championship and Trnava could easily bring home silverware or, as their fans may even prefer, sneak into Europe just by making the final should they, as expected, face Zilina in the final [please correct me if I'm wrong!]

Slovan’s fans sense silverware this season, and will expect 100% from their team tonight, to keep alive an ambitious quest for a league and cup double.  If Slovan do not give everything to win this match, I would expect serious questions to be asked as they have a squad with enough strength in depth to handle a mid-week fixture in addition to league duties at the weekend.

So, the tie is tantalisingly poised, and as is always the case with derby games, especially in cup semi-finals, anything is possible!  It will be interesting to see the size of tonight’s crowd, and I fully expect them to witness a thoroughly entertaining match.  Given a 2-2 scoreline from the first leg, extra time is unlikely, and the longer Trnava don’t score the more nervous they will surely become.  I am confident Slovan will do the job tonight and progress to the final.

By stark contrast, in the other tie Zilina travel to Zlate Moravce with a 3-0 advantage from the home leg.  Zlate Moravce, lacking a goalscoring threat, should struggle to get past Zilina’s tight defence, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Zilina win comfortably and extend their aggregate lead.  This is a pity as it would have been good to see one of the smaller teams in the final.  Zilina will arrive at Pasienky having hardly broken sweat in this season’s competition, MFK Kosice being the only top flight team they have faced prior to ZM.

My prediction for the final?

MSK Zilina v Slovan Bratislava

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Apr 06 2011

Slovak Cup Semi-Finals

Published by under Pohar

MSK Zilina v ViOn Zlate Moravce

Normally I would be lamenting the fact that the Slovak Cup is as low-key as it is. It’s at the semi-final stage now, after all, and offers the reward of a Europa League place to the eventual winners, so it should be at least starting to generate some interest.

But, setting out for Tuesday’s Žilina v Zlaté Moravce semi-final first-leg match, I felt like Friday night’s Corgoň Liga clash between Žilina and Slovan Bratislava had provided enough excitement, much of it of the wrong kind, for the time being. A relatively obscure occasion, of interest only to the faithful few, was actually quite a welcome prospect.

Familiarity is a word I would apply not only to the stoical season-ticket holders who inhabit West Stand Block D at the Štadión pod Dubňom. It is also an increasingly appropriate description of my relationship with Zlaté Moravce ; I’ve now seen them play four times this season and feel I’m getting quite a good idea of what to expect from them in terms of tactics, individual performances and so on. Essentially, they are a solid team who always attempt to play passing football but lack a striker of genuine class. I also felt they might struggle today when I saw that Peter Kuračka, their captain and playmaker, was missing.

Žilina, meanwhile, made a few changes from Friday night. Martin Krnáč had a rare opportunity in goal in place of Martin Dúbravka, Jozef Piaček replaced Ondřej Šourek in central defence and Arturs Zjuzins was rested in favour of Roman Gergel. Perhaps the most interesting selections, and certainly the ones with most direct relevance to the controversial incidents at the Slovan game, were those of Ernest Mabouka at right-back and Momodou Ceesay in attack. Mabouka was in because Stanislav Angelovič had rightly been given a ban by the SFZ disciplinary commission for his manhandling of assistant referee Roman Slyško as the officials left the field on Friday. Ceesay, by contrast, had had his second yellow card, awarded for diving in the Slovan penalty area, rescinded and was thus eligible to play.

It was perhaps inevitable that Ceesay, who had looked both angry and distraught when he was sent-off on Friday, would as good as secure his side’s cup-final place and achieve personal vindication in the process. His first goal, after 30 minutes, was a sharp, athletic finish after Ivan Lietava had flicked on a long free-kick. His second, five minutes into the second-half, was a towering header from a corner. It was only a foul by Martin Babic, for which he was shown a second yellow card, that prevented Ceesay from registering a hat-trick. As it was, Tomáš Majtán’s confident penalty rounded off a 3-0 win and a highly satisfactory afternoon for Žilina.

Friday night and its aftermath did, as we know (having already discussed the various issues at quite some length) showcase much that is wrong with Slovak football in general and Žilina in particular. Tuesday’s victory is not going to even start to repair Žilina’s image in the eyes of many but it did at least give me a reminder of some of the things I enjoy about following them.

On the field, it was perhaps their best performance of the spring so far. They played some good football and seemed to be enjoying themselves again. It was especially gratifying to see fine performances from Mabouka, who’s sprung from the obscurity of the B-team and now looks a very accomplished full-back, Gergel, who probably shouldn’t have been left out on Friday, and, of course, Ceesay.

A game played in front of 1,673 people shouldn’t be more enjoyable than one played in the same ground in front of 6,500. But this one was far better than Friday’s, partly for the obvious reason that there was no hint of trouble, partly because of the team’s display and also because of the sense of togetherness among the crowd, and between fans and players, that, paradoxically, you get more with a small attendance than with a big one. Add the fact that Žilina are already as good as in the Slovak Cup Final and you could almost forget the likely (and well-deserved) punishment that surely awaits when the ULK and the SFZ disciplinary committee meet on Thursday.

James Baxter

Slovan Bratislava v Spartak Trnava

I was aware that the cup doesn’t attract so much interest in Slovakia.  Let’s be honest, even the league doesn’t attract that much interest; six thousand at Zilina v Slovan last week being an eye-catchingly high attendance in these parts.  However, Slovan v Spartak is THE derby in Slovak football, as big as things get and whatever the occasion, I was excited about my first taste of it.

People can talk about the kick-off time, but in the days that Digisport  TV is able to manipulate matches to start at 17:30, as was the case when Slovan played away in the league in Trnava a few weeks ago , or even 16:30 for today’s other semi-final, I don’t consider 19:00 to be all that bad.  To the contrary, in fact, I actually consider 19:00 to be a fairly civilised kick-off time, all things considered.

Anyway, what am I building up to here?  I’ll get to the match shortly, but I make no secret of the fact that it is the off-the field proceedings which contribute largely to my idea of an entertaining evening. Also, as regular readers will be aware, I have recently moved to Bratislava and am now finally able to get to the matches I have previously been observing from a distance.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say I meet resistance, but I certainly get a fair amount of non-comprehending remarks when I say that I follow Slovak football, in particular Slovan Bratislava.  Much has been written and debated on this blog about the reputation of Slovan and in particular their supporters, and I have already heard plenty of horror stories from the past, however I am taking everything on face-value and so far, the more I see of Slovan, the more I like Slovan.

I genuinely believe that Slovan are moving in the right direction, both on and off the field and I’m trying to document evidence of that.  Granted, it is easy to write positively about a 4-0 victory in the early Spring sunshine over distant Tatran Presov.  The sceptical view will, quite rightly, remain that it is this type of match, the Slovan-Spartak derby clashes which will show the reality of the current situation.  As a caveat to that, Slovan v Dunajska Streda went off without incident a few weeks ago and 500+ Slovan fans made the trip to Zilina last Friday and have been commended by the club and the media for their good behaviour.

As usual, all the warnings were out – in the media, on the club website etc.  The tightest level of security would be in place for this match, expect traffic delays around the ground, double security checks on the way in and no alcohol being served inside.  So I bought my tickets in advance and for once, turned up a good half an hour before kick off.

The scene insde?  Tranquility! the sun was setting peacefully behind the classic Pasienky scoreboard, Slovan fans were draping their vast collection of flags over the fences and, in the home end at least, numbers were starting to build.  Up at the other end?  Well, two men and a dog would be an exaggeration, but just where were those travelling masses from Trnava?  Where were the much-feared hooligans, the bane of provincial towns across the country?  Fan club Spartak Trnava was certainly nowhere to be seen as kick-off approached.

Slovan put out what I would call their strongest team at the moment.  On occasions I have seen quality from Karim Guede, Igor Zofcak, Marko Milinkovic and Filip Sebo which would be fitting for the top leagues of Europe and when they’re all on the same field I can’t help but feel excited about Slovan’s prospects.  Given the imbalance in the stands, surely Slovan would handle this match.

The match got underway amid a decent [by Pasienky standards] atmosphere, the home club certainly can’t ask for more from their supporters, especially given the recent history, stadium disharmony etc.  In fact, when Kore Kone put Trnava 1-0 up with their first chance of the match on 29 minutes, the songs just got louder.  Trnava doubled their lead a few minutes later and I wouldn’t say the Slovan fans didn’t care, but they just continued and strengthened their support.  The reward came 3 minutes later when Kone put the ball in his own net to bring Slovan back to 1-2 at half time.

Now, I will have to browse the various websites to try and get to the bottom of what happened at half time, but first of all, the fifty or so Trnava fans who were there left.  Not just  for half-time refreshment, no they actually left the ground.  Ten minutes into the second half there were more stewards than fans in the away end.  Then suddenly, from over the steps behind the away end a marching mob of Trnava fans entered the arena.  Two or three hundred at least, chanting loudly, finally the fan club had arrived, ten minutes into the 2nd half!  I will investigate further, maybe they were held up by the police, maybe this was some kind of planned boycott of the first half, maybe they were just delayed, but this was the first time I experienced something like this!

Anyway, that led to an improvement of the atmosphere, and the remainder of the match turned out to be a highly entertaining spectacle for the reported crowd of 5,000 [I’ve got my doubts about that].  Guede’s influence was, once again, impressive to such an extent that he clearly stands out as one of the best players in this country at the moment.  Milinkovic showed more moments of class, which, after several wayward attempts, culminated in Slovan’s equaliser with an excellent shot from the edge of the box.

Slovan still have a problem to solve with their 2nd striker.  Sebo needs a physical partner who will provide the flick-ons and short balls he can exploit with his searing pace.  All the creativity in midfield needs to be better converted into goals, as was demonstrated against Zilina on Friday night.   I hold serious reservations about Kresimir Kordic being that strike-partner for Sebo, and he was replaced twenty minutes from time by Akos Szarka.  Possibly Szarka is a better option, I need to see more of him, but with Halenar and Ivana there are plenty of options for coach Jarolim to investigate.

2-2 was probably a fair result, Trnava remained threatening on the break and Slovan had numerous chances they should really have converted.  This result means Slovan need to win the away leg to reach the final, and that will be no easy task.  Unfortunately I won’t be able to make it, but I would imagine that Belasa Slachta will make a point of turning up in full force to highlight the poor turn-out from Trnava on this occasion.

An already satisfying evening ended with a dramatic show of flares and fireworks from the Slovan fans.  Again, I think they were making a point here, all the security checks and rules will never stop the fans bringing these items into the ground but they saved them all for after the final whistle.  Perhaps this was planned so as to not to give the referee an excuse to end the match early, but the bond was strengthened further with the players, once again fans and players together singing the famous

“vstante kde’ ste belasi”

and not a sniff of trouble all night.  Long may this continue.

 

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Feb 01 2011

Tipsport League: Inspiration for joint competition?

Earlier in the month, we posted some coverage of the Tipsport League, a semi-friendly tournament which has been ongoing throughout the lengthy winter break in the Czech & Slovak Republics.

Opinion and interest amongst our readers and twitter followers was mixed, a fairly common consensus was for people to see the tournament as offering an interesting scouting window and at least some footballing action during the winter break.   The opportunity is there to see new players who may be on trial at certain clubs, or promising youngsters able to better show their skills on the artificial pitches rather than the often heavy, poor quality grass pitches at clubs’ main stadiums.  However at the majority of matches, crowds remain sparse and mainstream interest is perhaps diminished by the non-participation of some of the bigger clubs from both countries.

The tournament concluded this weekend, with domestically 6th placed Slovak side ViOn Zlate Moravce losing 3-1 in the final to Sigma Olomouc of the Czech Republic.

Sigma celebrate with the Tipsport Trophy

It was a surprise to see ViOn in the final, but indeed good that a Slovak team made it all the way.  MSK Zilina presumably had to field a very weakened team in their 1/4 final against ViOn with the majority of their senior squad otherwise engaged in another friendly club tournament being held in Dubai.

ViOn, who were only promoted to the Corgon Liga last season and are still very much in the mix for qualification for European football, will have been pleased with the experience and also receive a modest financial reward for their endeavours.  They are currently just one point behind Slovan in the league and have [what should be considered] a big Cup semi-final against MSK Zilina to look forward to.  With a modest, but attractive and modern ground, Zlate Moravce might be one of the Slovak teams on the up in the next few years.

ViOn: 2nd Place in the Tipsport

What is interesting about the Tipsport League is that is does regenerate debate on the idea of a combined competitive competition for football clubs in the Czech & Slovak Republics.  This has been proven by a fairly mainstream media article published on one of Slovakia’s biggest news sites sme.sk yesterday discussing this very topic and publicising the competition.   One point raised by the Sigma Olomouc coach Zdenek Psotka is very much in line with my own personal thoughts.  While a complete federal league is probably fairly ambitious at this stage [not to say I don't dream of it in the future], a slightly more competitive and comprehensive cup competition would surely be a good starting point and generate more interest than the cup competitions currently on offer in the two countries.

What form this will take and how it will be driven [by sponsors and clubs or by the respective federations] and what support it would get from UEFA, remains to be seen, but with positive reports coming from this season’s Tipsport League, maybe it could continue to evolve and grow.  Besides, the current format with the participation of seven Slovak clubs is still relatively new.  It was only 2004 when MSK Zilina became the first Slovak team to take part in this competition.

I guess the big challenge for the Tipsport League is to attract a few more of the bigger names of Czech & Slovak football, some of whom, such as Slovan Bratislava, Sparta & Slavia Prague appear to prefer their own private winter-break schedules.  Also, with the matches being played on artificial training pitches, usually with just one stand along the side, the scope for bigger crowds is also not really there at the moment.

It is more than feasible that I’m wrong on a few of my points above, maybe they don’t want all the big teams in the tournament and maybe they don’t intend on attracting bigger crowds.  Certainly some of the scenes from matches involving Spartak Trnava would vindicate that stance.

As regular readers will know, here on the blog, we like to generate debate and look at a few different ideas, especially where the merger of competitive Czech & Slovak football is concerned!  For that reason I would be interested to hear the official mission statement from the Tipsport organisers and perhaps a vision of how they see the tournament evolving.

Britski Belasi says; give us a cup competition involving all Czech & Slovak 1st and 2nd Division teams and a Europa League place at stake for the winner, and just see what happens!

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Oct 28 2010

Slovak Cup 1/4 Final Draw

Published by under Domestic,Pohar

TJ Spartak Myjava (II. liga) – ŠK Slovan Bratislava (Corgoň liga (CL)
MFK Tatran Liptovský Mikuláš (I. liga) – MŠK Žilina (CL)
FC Nitra (CL) – FC ViOn Zlaté Moravce (CL)
MFK Ružomberok (CL) – FC Spartak Trnava (CL)

My first reaction on seeing this draw was that it had a ‘seeded’ feel to it.  Surely the big names will be happy with the draw, but then again, perhaps the smaller teams may also not be complaining.

2nd Division Spartak Myjava will host holders Slovan Bratislava and the other non- Corgon Liga outfit, Liptovský Mikuláš host MŠK Žilina in what must be something of ‘Northern derby’ (although I just noticed the towns are 88km apart).  That match takes place a week later than the others (due to Zilina’s Champions League commitments) on 10th November and promises to be quite a day/night for the hosts.  I’m pretty sure a train connects the two towns (I’m sure James will correct me if I’m wrong) and quite possibly Zilina will take a large contingent of fans with them on this trip.  The question is how seriously do they take the cup this season especially with the Champions League still in full swing at this time.  I think I wrote it in one of my early Cup preview pieces and I have no reason to change my mind (although I admit to sometimes getting tempted by the long odds of their opponents!) - I still think this might be Zilina’s season for the league+cup double.

Scanning the map, I also wonder if some of the Slovan fans’ buddies from across the border in Brno might be tempted to rock up at Myjava.  We’ll see how that plays out, but the hosts look strong in the cup this season, already having eliminated 2 top flight teams in Dubnica and Senica.  Slovan should progress easily against largely amateur opposition although you never know!

Spartak Trnava will definitely fancy their chances against a Ruzomberok side struggling for form, but as we’ve already seen with Trnava they need to concentrate on consistency as if they have a bad night it could all be over.  I’m pretty sure Trnava really want to win the cup this season.

Nitra and ViOn presumably will also look at the draw thinking that it could be better or it could be worse; either of these teams stands a good chance to progress to the semis.  I fancy ViOn might just add some more strength to @eredivisielife ‘s claim that they are dark horses to the cup this season.

Personally I can see this heading towards a semi-final draw consisting of Zilina, Slovan, Spartak & ViOn.  It’s an interesting competition with high-stakes (Silverware and a Europa League qualification place) and here on the blog we’ll be following with interest what happens next .. first matches next week Tuesday  - 2nd November (hardly a lot of time to prepare!)

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Oct 19 2010

Slovak Cup update

Published by under Domestic,Pohar

Today the majority of the 3rd round matches of the Slovak Cup have been played, and more Corgon Liga teams have fallen by the way-side.

Winners of these matches are through to the 1/4 finals of a competition which has had a variety of winners in recent years.  In my opinion, the stakes are high – a Europa League qualifying place accompanies the glory of winning Silverware – and I never understand why average Corgon Liga sides would put out weakened teams against amateur opponents.

Anyway, it keeps things interesting and here are the results:

ŠK Odeva Lipany (II. liga) – MFK Ružomberok (CL) 0:1  (att: 620)

Ružomberok survive a tricky tie away at a part-time Lipany team which includes a caretaker colleague of James Baxter.  Great effort from the 2nd league team, who held off their Corgon Liga opponents for 81 minutes before finally conceding.  Ružomberok won the competition in 05/06 and will be relieved to progress to the 1/4s where they will hope for a home draw against a lower division side to potentially sneak into the semis without playing spectacularly well.

MFK Tatran Liptovský Mikuláš (I. liga) – FK Dukla Banská Bystrica (CL) 0:0, penalties: 4:2 (610)

Dukla, who qualified for this season’s Europa League courtesy of a 3rd place finish in the league, should be very disappointed at being dumped out by 1st division Liptovský Mikuláš on penalties as the cup was certainly their only route back into Europe for next season.  Their league form is poor and now the season is effectively over for Dukla.  Congratulations to Liptovský, who unexpectedly progress on to the next round.

FK Spišská Nová Ves (II. liga) – FC Spartak Trnava (CL) 0:5 (4,000)

Massive crowd in for the 2nd Division team based in a town on the edge of Slovak paradise.  Perhaps this result illustrates just how bad MFK Kosice  are this season (Spišská knocked them out of the previous round).  Approximately 70 Spartak fans made the trip and were praised for their good behaviour.  Spartak march on and should be considered serious contenders for the cup this season.

ŽP Šport Podbrezová (II. liga) – FC Nitra (CL) 0:1 (500)

Relatively straight forward assignment for Nitra who were Slovakia’s other early European representatives this season.  Podbrezova put the pressure on at the end but couldn’t convert this into a goal.  Not sure I can see Nitra going all the way in this competition, you never know though, you always have a dark horse.

TJ Spartak Myjava (II. liga) – MFK Dubnica (CL) 1:0 (1,150)

Leaders of the 2. Division West claimed their 2nd Corgon Liga scalp of the competition after defeating Senica in the previous round.  Enjoying big crowds for these exciting cup matches, this team might just be one to watch out for in the next round.

AS Trenčín (I. liga) – ŠK Slovan Bratislava (CL) 1:1, penalties 2:3 (1,913)

I fully expected Slovan to go at this match 100% as any hope left of winning the league threatens to evapourate already this weekend should they fail to beat Zilina at home.  If Slovan did give their all here, it can either be seen as a worrying sign at their lack of cutting edge, or it can be interpreted as a credit to Trencin who currently lead the 1. Division by 7 points.

This match was played out in front of a crowd in Trencin which puts Slovan’s home attendances to shame.  Obviously the home fans sensed an upset, I guess they and most of the rest of Slovak football will be disappointed they didn’t pull it off.

If Slovan were cruising with a weakened team, serious questions need to be asked as to their objectives at the moment.  Details will follow .. the holders are through by the lottery of penalties and should seriously start realising that the cup is possibly their best route into Europe and that playing finals and winning Silverware is always important to the fans.

FC ViOn Zlaté Moravce (CL) – FC Petržalka 1898 (I. liga) 2:1 (724)

Unlucky Petrzalka conceded 2 late goals to lose out at the hands of ViOn, the team they traded Corgon Liga places with this season.

Playing next week:

ŠK SFM Senec (I. liga) – MŠK Žilina (CL)

Just one thought – and a serious one at that – could this be the season for a Žilina double ?

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