If Stanislav Griga’s schoolmasterly displeasure at Senica’s abject 0-0 draw with Banská Bystrica last week was ominous for his own players, it was probably even more so for those of Vion Zlaté Moravce. Vion had to play Senica twice this week, away in the Slovak Cup semi-final and at home in the league, and they would have known going into the games that their opponents would have their socks well and truly pulled up. Their worst fears came true as Senica brushed them aside 3-0 inthe cup, thus completing a 4-1 aggregate victory, before repeating the dose in Saturday’s league match. Tomáš Strnad played a prominent role in the latter game, scoring his side’s first goal and winning the penalty from which Stef Wiljaars added the second. Roland Blackburn made it 3-0, before Martin Hruška gave Vion at least a little consolation. Senica will probably not win the league – they are in fourth place, five points behind Žilina – but their appearance in the cup final gives Griga, Slovakia‘s newly-appointed joint-coach, the chance to ensure his time at the club ends on a high.
Like Senica and Vion, Bystrica and Žilina have become familiar with each other over the last ten days. Their last two meetings were both at Štadión SNP, Bystrica’s home ground. The first – the cup semi-final, second-leg – ended 0-0, meaning that Serge Akakpo’s goal in the first-leg was enough to send Žilina to their second final in successive years. Saturday’s league meeting, meanwhile, was a curious affair. Nothing much happened for the first 30 minutes, then there was a five-minute flurry of action, then everyone put their feet up again. The little period of excitement produced two well-taken goals from Bystrica’s Martin Matúš, either side of Róbert Pich’s headed equaliser. The pitch, still under a heavy covering of snow as recently as early March, could be held partly responsible for the all-round lack of quality. Jakub Považanec, Jozef Rejdovian and Marek Kuzma, three home players who did show some nice touches, must wish they had a better surface to perform regularly on.
Second-placed Trnava would have wanted to give Slovan Bratislava and Žilina a demonstration of how to deal with a visit from increasingly confident Trenčín. In fact, just like their title rivals earlier in the spring, they could only manage a 2-2 draw. Filip Hlohovský twice put Trenčín ahead, first with a penalty and later with a brilliant 25-yard shot. But, while Trnava’s quality can be questioned, their spirit certainly cannot. Equalisers from Martin Mikovič and Ladislav Tomaček at least ensured that they closed to within two points of Žilina at the top.
The travails of the top two should have provided the ideal opportunity for Slovan to restate their title credentials. However, like Žilina, they found themselves up against a dreadful playing surface (‘katastrofalný’ was Vladimír Weiss’s chosen adjective), as well as durable opposition, this time in the shape of MFK Ružomberok. Filip Šebo, back in the Slovan line-up for the first time this spring, came closest to defying the bobbly pitch, grazing the crossbar with a half-volley. As for Ruža, they had a poor start to the spring but now seem to have regained the solidity they showed during their eight-match unbeaten run before the winter break.
Prešov have been threatening to move above Košice into 10th place for a few weeks now. On Saturday, thanks to a 1-0 win at Nitra, they finally did it. The only goal of a dull-looking match was scored after 58 minutes by Peter Katona, and such chances as there were after that also came at the Nitra end. The reason Prešov were in the position to leapfrog Košice was that their neighbours had become the first spring victims of DAC Dunajská Streda on Friday night. Goals inside the first 20 minutes, from Dzon Delarge and Branislav Fodrek (his first in the Corgoň Liga for two-and-a-half years) gave DAC an advantage they never looked like relinquishing. Anyone who follows Slovak football should be happy to see Fodrek on the scoresheet again ; he featured in Artmedia Bratislava’s 2005/2006 Champions League campaign and 2007/2008 title success, but has suffered a terrible sequence of injuries in more recent times. He was pleased with Friday night’s goal but admits that, with DAC still nine points adrift at the bottom of the league, it isn’t really great cause for celebration.
Next weekend, the top three sides will hope to get over Saturday’s choke when they face mid-table teams at home. Tuesday May 8th, meanwhile, is cup final day. Žilina and Senica, two clubs from the west of the country, are being sent to Bardejov, upwards of350 kilometres east, for a 1230 kick-off. There’s material enough there for another rant at the SFZ, but I’ll save it for another time.
Slovak Cup Semi-Final, Second-Leg
Banská Bystrica 0 Žilina 0 (Žilina win 1-0 on agg)
Senica 3 Zlaté Morave 0 (Senica win 4-1 on agg)
Corgoň Liga, Round 29
Banská Bystrica 2 Žilina 1
Trnava 2 Trenčín 2
Ružomberok 0 Slovan 0
Zlaté Moravce 1 Senica 3
Nitra0 Prešov 1
DAC 2 Košice 0