Saturday’s game at Ružomberok looked a tough assignment for Žilina. They‘d played extra-time in the cup-final in midweek and were up against a side who’d had eight days to stew over an inept defeat in their previous league game. Add an appalling playing surface, strong wind and heavy rain, and the fixture really did begin to look like one where the title could be lost. Ruža started strongly, winning a succession of corners and having a plausible penalty appeal turned down inside the first quarter of an hour. Žilina slowly came into it and, after 41 minutes, Vladimír Leitner thrashed home a loose ball following a Ricardo Nunes corner. Last week’s winner at home to Vion Zlaté Moravce was Leitner’s first Corgoň Liga goal for eight years. Now he has two in two games.
The second-half, with the wind and rain driving straight down the pitch, was unwatchably dire. The only real action of note surrounded an ongoing feud between Leitner and Pavol Masaryk following an alleged elbow by the Ruža captain. Otherwise, by winning free-kicks, playing the ball into the corners, and slowing the game down, Žilina held on reasonably comfortably. It is ironic that Frans Adelaar, appointed to introduce attractive football in the Dutch style, seems to be guiding his new team to the title by means of a series of scrappy 1-0 wins.
Trnava too showed their resolve, winning 2-0 at Zlaté Moravce. After having the better first-half chances, the visitors lost Roman Procházka, sent-off for two bookable offences. But a neat Martin Vyskočil header gave them the lead ten minutes into the second period, and Ladislav Tomaček added a last-minute second after home ‘keeper Martin Kuciak had strayed miles out of his area. Once again, Trnava had formidable support behind them. Citing the atmosphere created by the visiting contingent, Vion coach Juraj Jarábek says he hopes they will be rewarded by their team claiming the title. But, still two points behind Žilina with just two games remaining, the odds remain against Trnava
Slovan Bratislava, one point behind Trnava, were expected to have little difficulty disposing of already-relegated DAC Dunajská Streda. But Vladimír Weiss’s team seem determined these days to create problems for themselves. After a goalless first-half, DAC established a 2-0 lead within ten minutes of the restart, with goals from Dzon Delarge and Arsene Coba. After the second goal, disgruntled visiting fans began to file out of the ground. Those who heeded appeals to stay, led by striker Filip Šebo, were rewarded by a ten-minute hat-trick from Juraj Halenár. His goals, a curling free-kick, a header and a penalty, were his first of the spring. They also mean that Slovan aren’t quite out of the title race yet.
Senica, by contrast, are out of the race following their 1-0 defeat at Nitra. Like Žilina, Stanislav Griga’s team may still have felt Tuesday’s cup-final in their muscles. They did contribute to an entertaining-looking game, but lost to a superbly-taken goal by Ľuboš Kolár.
Trenčín are now in fifth place, courtesy of a 2-1 victory at Banská Bystrica. It was level going into the last ten minutes, after goals from Bystrica’s Tomáš Hučko and the visitors’ Boris Godál. Then, home defender Patrik Vajda was sent-off, and Trenčín secured the points through Peter Mazan’s tremendous long-range effort.
The eastern Slovak derby between Košice and Prešov ended, fairly predictably, in a 0-0 draw. Going into the fixture, Prešov’s run of 11 points from five matches had already made a mockery of their earlier relegation worries. As for Košice, with Ján Kozák back in charge, they were always going to provide durable opposition. As Kozák and Prešov coach Sergij Kovalec both acknowledged afterwards, the match was badly affected by the wind, there wasn’t much quality on display and a draw was the right result.
With only 850 turning up, there wasn‘t much of a derby atmosphere at Košice. Two other games – DAC v Slovan and Nitra v Senica – also attracted crowds of less than 1,000. Other than at Trnava and, to a lesser extent, Žilina, there seems to be little interest in the league’s end of season issues. But those who do care will know the identity of this season’s champions by this time next week…
Ružomberok 0 Žilina 1
Zlaté Moravce 0 Trnava 2
DAC 2 Slovan 3
Nitra 1 Senica 0
Banská Bystrica 1 Trenčín 2
Košice 0 Prešov 0
By James Baxter