Here’s a tip in case you’re ever stuck with a Žilina fan who’s bleating on about how luck and referees are always against his team ; ask him to account for Friday’s 1-0 win over Vion Zlaté Moravce. Vion, so depleted by injury they couldn’t fill their substitutes’ bench, could easily have had the game won by half-time. Only three remarkable saves by Martin Krnáč, together with some wayward finishing, kept Žilina in it. With 70 minutes gone, right–back Ernest Mabouka committed a reckless challenge on Vion’s Martin Husár. A red card looked inevitable but, while Husár left the ground in an ambulance, Mabouka stayed on the pitch. Five minutes later, substitute Vladimír Leitner headed Žilina’s winner from a Ricardo Nunez corner. As if indignity needed adding to misfortune, Vion then had Michal Pintér (who’d replaced Husár) and Patrik Pavlenda sent off.
Leitner’s goal is proof of an old footballing truth ; that teams with trophy-winning ambitions sometimes need unlikely heroes. At 37, he is the Corgoň Liga’s oldest registered player and claims to be unable to remember his last league goal. ‘It must have been at least ten years ago,’ he smiled. ‘But what’s more important is that we didn’t drop points against a very difficult Vion team.’
Senica were also in action on Friday night and enjoyed a gentle warm-up for Tuesday’s cup-final. They beat Ružomberok 2-0, thanks to early goals from Nicolas Gorosito and Martin Ďurica. Ruža coach Aleš Křeček found his team’s start to the game unacceptable. ‘I had a lot to say at half-time,’ he told the post-match press-conference, ‘but it was too late by then.’ His captain and top-scorer, Pavol Masaryk, was more outspoken. ‘Some younger players got a chance today and did absolutely nothing,’ he said. ‘There was no fight, no effort. Players like that don’t belong in the top division.’ Masaryk did, however, admit that the ‘tense situation’ at the club – speculation is rife that the owners are threatening to pull out – has got to all the players.
Senica’s win put them in second place for 24 hours, but Trnava and Slovan overtook them again on Saturday. In front of a crowd of 5,328, more than double that at any of the other matches, Trnava’s 2-0 home win over Banská Bystrica was secured with goals from Martin Vyskočil and Ladislav Tomaček.
As for Slovan, they beat Nitra 2-1 at Pasienky. What caught the eye here were the assists for the home side’s goals. Marko Milinković supplied a slide-rule through pass from which Karol Mészáros scored the first, and Filip Šebo created the second for Juraj Piroška with a perfectly-weighted cross. Andrej Ivančík pulled one back for Nitra, and their all-round performance pleased coach Ladislav Jurkemík, who was back on the bench after missing last week’s defeat to Prešov through illness. His Slovan counterpart, Vladimír Weiss, was in familiar downbeat mode after the game, lamenting the ‘situation surrounding the club’. Presumably, he was referring to its ongoing tenancy at a ground the fans hate, as well as declining support. The attendance at Saturday’s match (just 1,453) suggests he has a point.
Life is about to become a bit more interesting at Košice, as Ján Kozák Senior has returned as head coach, replacing the sacked Ladislav Šimčo. Kozák’s previous spell in charge (2005-2010) was marked by several off-field incidents, including blazing rows with opposition coaches in press-conferences and an alleged assault on Nitra’s goalkeeping coach. His first game back, away to Trenčín, went as well as could be expected, given the two sides’ recent records. Miroslav Viazanko gave Košice the lead with an extraordinary long-range effort, before Boris Godál secured a point for the hosts. There were no post-match explosions from Kozák on this occasion, simply an acknowledgement that a draw was a fair result.
Kozák’s good humour will not last long if his team is unable to climb above eastern Slovak rivals Tatran Prešov in the league table. On Saturday, Prešov hammered DAC Dunajská Streda 4-0. Two goals from Peter Katona and one each from Lukáš Stetina and Ján Papaj did the damage. As well as continuing the hosts’ recent good run, the result confirms the visitors’ relegation.
Once DAC have seen out this season – and games against Slovan, Senica and Žilina hold out little hope of consolation points – it will be interesting to see how determined they will be to regroup in II liga. My suspicion is that they will not continue in their current form. In January, there were serious doubts over whether they would complete their spring programme, and they still appear to be a woefully mismanaged club, as demonstrated by the reappointment of Werner Lorant as head coach midway through the spring. This originally entailed Krisztián Németh’s demotion to assistant coach – but then it was discovered that Lorant had failed to renew his UEFA licences and so couldn’t be head coach after all. He was hastily made director of football, a position which, as Šport pointed out, appears to involve screaming at players and fourth officials from just inside the tunnel rather than from the bench. Meanwhile, there are rumours that a group of businessmen in Dunajská Streda have lost all confidence in DAC president Khashayar Mohseni and are in talks about establishing a completely new club.
Hopefully, we’ll be able to make some sort of sense of the off-field problems at DAC and Ruža over the coming days and weeks. Back on the pitch, meanwhile, Žilina and Senica are off to Bardejov on Tuesday for the final of the Slovak Cup. Next weekend, all the title contenders face away fixtures, Žilina at Ruža, Trnava at Zlaté Moravce, Slovan at DAC and Senica (whose chances are more mathematical than realistic) at Nitra.
Žilina 1 Zlaté Moravce 0
Senica 2 Ružomberok 0
Trnava 2 Banská Bystrica 0
Slovan 2 Nitra 1
Trenčín 1 Košice 1
Prešov 4 DAC 0
By James Baxter