There is a remarkable similarity in the way the stars have aligned over the last few weeks for the domestic giants of the two leagues I have been following this season.
In Holland, Ajax have somehow come from nowhere and manoeuvred themselves into a position where they will [assuming they don’t bugger things up away at Heerenveen] play against FC Twente twice in 8 days to contest both the Cup and the Eredivisie Championship. This title has eluded Ajax for so long, the atmosphere in that last match promises to be absolutely incredible. Whether or not they are favourites I’m not so sure, but after the mid-season break Ajax would have never expected to be in such a position.
The same can be said of Slovan Bratislava in Slovakia. Going into the winter break Slovan sat well adrift of MSK Zilina in the league, but are currently going about proving exactly what hard work throughout the break and a positive string of results can bring come the Spring.
FK Senica did a good job of messing up our accumulator bets before the weekend had even started, drawing 1-1 against Kosice on Friday evening. One week earlier, Senica played on Friday, won comfortably at free-falling DAC and had their feet up while Slovan & Zilina sweated under pressure to keep up with 3 points on the Saturday. This week it was different, and apparently the pressure told and they dropped points in a match where they really needed the maximum.
MSK Zilina’s travelling fans swelled the crowd at MFK Ruzomberok to 3,778 [about 3x the average] but despite the best efforts of the fans, their team were unable to break down the home side’s defence. Tomas Majtan was really unlucky with a couple of efforts and Zilina had much the better of the match, but as James feared, they have dropped points just at the wrong time.
As Zilina struggled to put the ball in the back of Ruzomberok’s net, the same was happening in Nitra as Slovan’s resurgent full-strength team also struggled to engineer a goal in the Spring sunshine. Shots reigned in from distance, Sebo looked desperately for a break, but it just wasn’t coming for Slovan, until the 89th minute. A hopeful ball was lofted into the box, Martin Dobrotka went up and got to the ball, just ahead of the Nitra keeper, and it ended up in the back of the net. The Nitra players were outraged, pictures and videos conclusively reveal that Dobrotka scored with a Diego Maradona style ‘hand-of-God’ effort. It cannot be disputed, it was pretty clear, just the referee and linesman failed to spot it and disallow the goal so the result stands. It is unfortunate that Slovan won this match in this way, and the fans of Nitra, Senica and Zilina are rightly upset, and even outraged by the decision. This could go a long way to deciding the league title and will no doubt add fire to the conspiracy theories, and add to the dislike of Slovan throughout the country.
Personally I’m a bit disappointed about it too. I wonder how Dobrotka feels, how the players can really celebrate a victory in this way against a team who gave everything in defence for 90 minutes. I’m not complaining about the result, or the way the league table stands right now, and I am satisfied that Slovan had the better of the match against Nitra and probably deserved the 3 points, it’s just a pity that one of the long distance shots from Zofcak, Milinkovic, Guede or Grendel didn’t fly in the top corner rather than this. It would be better for the sporting feeling, the feeling of satisfaction we get out of our teams winning football matches.
I’m not in Slovakia at the moment, and haven’t seen what has been written in the papers. I’d be interested to know of course, although I fear I can already imagine a lot of what is being said and written through my contact with the social networks.
Anyway, nothing can be done about it, so we move on. Slovan have overtaken Zilina on goal difference and move into a position where the league title is now in their own hands. Next week they have a relatively comfortable home-fixture against Ruzomberok while Zilina host Senica in a match which could significantly dent the title challenge of one of the teams. Whatever happens in that match, next Wednesday sees an equally massive game as Slovan visit the small town of 20,000 inhabitants.
There is a lot of exciting football coming up but there’s still a long way to go, each team still has 6 more games to play. One thing is for certain, the next 10 days promise to contribute a lot to how things will turn out in the Corgon Liga .. let’s hope we can get back to discussing it for the right reasons .. and the good news is I will be right there!
For video highlights of the Slovan game, click here. The ‘hand-of-God’ incident occurs after approx 2:00 minutes!
As usual, comments welcome …
By Dan Richardson