I’m not sure many in Slovakia noticed, given the ice-hockey team’s fantastic efforts in reaching the world championship final, so I’d better tell you myself ; Žilina are the 2011/2012 Corgoň Liga champions. Congratulations to them, and credit too to the very gallant Spartak Trnava team who pushed them all the way and ensured that maximum points from the last four fixtures were necessary to seal the title.
On Wednesday, Žilina won 2-0 at home to Nitra. Jozef Piaček supplied the sort of crisp finish not usually associated with no-nonsense centre-backs to open the scoring after 11 minutes. After that, like most recent mid-table visitors to Žilina, Nitra caused their share of problems, notably through the very tricky Seydouba Soumah. Momodou Ceesay increased his side’s nerves by missing a penalty but Róbert Pich eased them again, with a fine strike right on the stroke of half-time.
On Sunday, away to relegated DAC Dunajská Streda, Žilina scored their goals in the second-half. Ján Marcin unluckily deflected Miroslav Barčík’s shot into his own net after 54 minutes. Then, in the 86th minute, just 60 seconds after coming on as a substitute, Jean Deza produced a goal that would have graced far better competitions than the Corgoň Liga. He turned Arsene Copa inside-out on a run down the right before chipping exquisitely over home goalkeeper Pavel Kučera. The goal was both a fitting conclusion to Žilina’s season and, considering that not every club in Europe is offering opportunities to 18 year-old Peruvian talents, a tribute to what must be a very fine scouting system.
As for Trnava, they too won their last two games without conceding a goal. On Wednesday, they sent packing a Ružomberok side who had taken four points from the season’s previous two encounters between the clubs. Martin Mikovič scored the first goal with a brilliant outside-of-the-foot effort. A double from Ladislav Tomaček, including a penalty, then sealed a comfortable 3-0 victory.
On Sunday, 3,000 Trnava fans put aside thoughts of ice-hockey in order to travel the short distance to Nitra. Again, their team didn’t let them down. Martin Vyskočil put them ahead after 32 minutes and Ivan Schranz wrapped things up eight minutes from the end. It was always too much to hope that Žilina might choke at the last, but Trnava have nothing to reproach themselves for this season. If, as they surely will, their fans stick with them, and if the core of the side holds together, they have a great chance of ending their 40-year wait for a league title next season.
While the top two were giving nothing away, third-placed Slovan Bratislava’s season rather petered out. First, a 1-1 draw at home to Košice on Wednesday ended any hopes they still had of retaining their title. Juraj Halenár seemed to have put them on their way to victory with a 54th minute goal, but Kamil Karaš hit a late equaliser for the visitors from the east. Afterwards, with reference to the appallingly low crowd at Pasienky (750 was the official figure), Slovan coach Vladimír Weiss expressed his fears for the future of Slovak football.
Weiss might have been better advised to stay positive and rally his men for their final match of the season, away to improving Prešov, on Sunday. Again, Halenár gave Slovan the lead, with his fifth goal in three games, but again they were pegged back by an eastern team. Matúš Marcin and Peter Petráš scored second-half goals to give Prešov a 2-1 win.
Senica thrashed DAC 5-1 intheir final home match of the season, largely thanks to a hat-trick from Roland Blackburn. It might have been closer if Dzon Delarge hadn’t missed a penalty for the visitors with the score at 3-1. Stanislav Griga’s team then followed up with a typically solid 0-0 draw at Košice on Sunday. Besides Tomáš Strnad’s late sending-off, there were two curiosities connected with this match. First, it was the fourth successive draw Ján Kozák has overseen since his reappointment as Košice coach. Second, the attendance (just 350) was the lowest anywhere in the Corgoň Liga this season. So, while the timing of Vladimír Weiss’s comments might have been questionable, their substance, and relevance to clubs other than his own, have to be recognised.
It’s difficult, however, to be all doom and gloom when Trenčín are around. Adrián Guľa’s entertainers won their last two games of the season to ensure a fifth-placed finish. On Wednesday, they inflicted a 2-0 defeat on Prešov, the latter’s first reverse in six games. Four days later, they found themselves trailing Vion Zlaté Moravce 2-0, courtesy of goals from Andrej Hodek, but hit back to win 3-2. Filip Hlohovský, David Depetris and Peter Mazan were the scorers. With their excellent young coach, and plenty of eye-catching playing talents, Trenčín will be well worth watching next season.
Ružomberok finished their campaign with a 2-0 win over Banská Bystrica. Pavol Masaryk cemented his place at the top of the league’s goalscoring charts by hitting his 18th of the season. After the game, Masaryk admitted that he has been struggling to focus on his own performances in recent weeks. There are off-field issues surrounding Ruža and, as club captain, Masaryk has had the difficult role of attempting to reassure team-mates anxious for their futures. The game also rounded-off Bystrica’s rather downbeat run-in. They drew 0-0 at home to Vion last Wednesday, and are parting company with coach Štefan Zaťko.
Six of the season’s last twelve league games attracted attendances of less than 1,000. Bearing that in mind, I have to repeat (again) that Weiss does have a point ; Slovak domestic football is struggling badly to get an audience for itself. When the national ice-hockey team is earning success on the rink, that struggle becomes ever more painful. One wonders too how viable some clubs are as full-time outfits, and how long it will be before some backers start to think seriously about pulling their money out. The close-season may provide answers to some of these questions.
32. kolo, 16.5.2012
|Senica||5:1 (3:1)||Dunajská Streda|
|Banská Bystrica||0:0||Zlaté Moravce|
33. kolo, 20.5.2012
|Zlaté Moravce||2:3 (2:0)||Trenčín|
|Ružomberok||2:0 (1:0)||Banská Bystrica|
|Dunajská Streda||0:2 (0:0)||Žilina|
By James Baxter