What’s going on in Slovak league football? Here James Baxter gives us his expert insight into the latest happenings and results.
Could this be Trnava’s season after all? It didn’t look like it four weeks ago when they lost 2-1 at home toNitra, and Žilina and Slovan Bratislava opened up a little gap at the top of the Corgoň Liga. But 14 points and a remarkable six successive clean sheets since then have put Trnava right back in contention. Their latest victory, 1-0 over Senica on Friday night, came courtesy of Martin Vyskočil’s goal less than a minute into the second-half. It wasn’t easy – Trnava struggled to create chances and Senica’s Jan Kalabiška hit the post in the first-half – but the discipline and spirit of Pavel Hoftych’s team is increasingly impressive. They are well-supported too. Every other club in Slovakia would be delighted with a 6,000+ attendance for any league match, let alone one shown live on TV. Another curiosity of this game is that Senica’s starting XI didn’t feature a single Slovak. There were six Czech players and one from each of Argentina, Costa Rica, Panama, Holland and the Ivory Coast.
Žilina were hoping to restore their two-point lead at the top when they took on Trenčín at Štadión pod Dubňom on Saturday, but they didn’t have things their own way in what was a highly entertaining match. Trenčín’s disdain for such tedious activities as defending was evident in a remarkable opening 16 minutes which saw the home side take a 2-1 lead. Jozef Piaček headed in the opener, Samuel Štefánik meandered through a vacant midfield before curling a 25-yard shot past Martin Krnáč for the first equaliser, then Miroslav Barčík put Žilina ahead again. The next hour or so somehow remained goal-less but the visitors finally earned the point their enterprise merited when Jorge Salinas – increasingly influential the longer the game went on – chipped a pass to Lester Peltier, who swept the ball past Krnáč. Whatever happens over the next six rounds of fixtures, this has been a fine first season back in the Corgoň Liga for Trenčín. They have plenty of players worth watching and coach Adrián Guľa will surely come to the attention of bigger clubs very soon.
Slovan Bratislava were in action earlier than Žilina, away to Banská Bystrica, looking to earn a win which would have re-energised their own push for the title. They drew 1-1 ina game which, though played on a shockingly poor surface, looked quite exciting. Martin Matúš put Bystrica ahead after 66 minutes but Marko Milinković scored a quick equaliser. At that stage, Slovan looked the likelier winners but then, in the last seconds of injury-time, Erik Grendel conceded a penalty. Michal Pančík struck his kick well enough but Pavol Kováč made a fine save. Following Martin Poljovka’s miss against Košice, this is the second spot-kick Bystrica have failed to convert in successive home matches.
Another piece of Slovan news is that centre-back Radek Dosoudil’s contract has been terminated following the 7-match ban imposed on him by the SFZ disciplinary commission. The sins which led to that punishment were an appalling tackle on Senica’s Tomáš Kóňa in the Slovak Cup quarter-final and an incident involving a steward immediately after a league game at Nitra. The foul on Kóňa only earned a yellow card during the game itself, and there appears to be some dispute about what really happened at Nitra, but the SFZ say that, in reaching their decision, they also considered Dosoudil’s conduct over the previous two years. His time in Slovakia would appear to be over for the time being but, if he could recapture the form and (relative) discipline he showed when playing alongside Kornel Saláta in the Petržalka and Slovan title-winning sides of 2007/2008 and 2008/2009, he would be a fine defender for somebody somewhere.
Back on the pitch, and events in the other three games are either of little real consequence, or confirm what we already knew. Prešov opened up a 9-point gap between themselves and DAC Dunajská Streda by coming from behind to win 2-1 at Zlaté Moravce. Andrej Brčák scored for Vion, with Viliam Macko and Peter Katona getting the visitors’ second-half goals. That Sergij Kovalec, the Prešov coach, felt it was a good game comes as no surprise ; he utters the same words every week, win, lose or draw. Vion’s Juraj Jarábek admits that his injury-hit team are now prioritising the Slovak Cup, in which they have a midweek semi-final against Senica. He also believes Prešov’s Corgoň Liga place is virtually secure.
DAC’s 3-0 defeat atNitrameans they might as well start preparing for life outside the Corgoň Liga. Ľuboš Kolár, Vratislav Gajdoš (a penalty) and Seydouba Soumah scored the home side’s goals. DAC coach Werner Lorant did not give the assembled reporters the benefit of his wisdom afterwards but sent his assistant Krisztián Neméth in to state the obvious. Neméth didn’t use the word ‘relegation’, but his demeanour suggested he knows what’s coming. He didn’t denyNitra’s superiority either, admitting that ‘there was a big difference at both ends of the pitch’.
Ružomberok’s 2-0 win over Košice is a result which has little influence on the season’s important issues, though it does move the home side to within a single point of fifth-placed Vion. And Pavol Masaryk’s 17th goal of the season – a tap-in from right on the goal-line – increases his lead at the top of the individual scoring charts. Juraj Vavrík was Ruža’s other scorer. DAC’s ineptitude has meant that Košice have never been in real relegation danger this spring but they cannot be happy with a run of one point from their last six matches.
The coming week sees the first legs of the Slovak Cup semi-finals. Žilina face Bystrica at home, while Vion welcome Senica. The return legs will be played one week later. Both ties look interesting enough but, typically where domestic cup competitions are concerned these days, some of the interest in the first match will be in how many players Žilina decide to rest. This is because, just three days later – Friday 20th April – Trnava are coming to town. If Hoftych’s defence can keep yet another clean sheet in that game, the prospect of red and black ribbons on the Corgoň Liga trophy will be real indeed.
Žilina 2 Trenčín 2
Trnava 1 Senica 0
Banská Bystrica 1 Slovan 1
Zlaté Moravce 1 Prešov 2
Ružomberok 2 Košice 0
Nitra 3 DAC 0
By James Baxter