The most important news of this weekend may not be the results. Two clubs, Trnava and Senica, appear to be proceeding with major stadium developments. Trnava plan to completely reconstruct Štadión Antona Malatinského, turning it into a fully-covered 19,000 capacity arena. Demolition work on the current ground should start in February, meaning that Saturday’s game at home to Ružomberok was its last. If all goes to plan, the new stadium should be ready early in 2015. Trnava will therefore be playing in exile for the next two years; Pieštany and Senec have been mentioned as possible temporary hosts.
Senica’s plans are more modest, unsurprisingly as they are a small-town club who lack the support-base Trnava can call upon. They too are going to build on their current site, but in four phases, so that a temporary move will not be necessary. Work has already begun on the first stage of the development; the construction of new stands behind the goals. This is scheduled for completion in time for the start of the spring phase of the current season.
I wouldn’t get too excited just yet, but these developments could be the best off-field news Slovak football has had for quite a while. Could it be that this month’s renewal of talks on a joint Czech-Slovak top division has sharpened minds at some clubs? Quite possibly, given that the Czech and Slovak football associations have both made clear that the substandard infrastructure at most Slovak clubs is a major barrier to such a project.
And so to the weekend’s football. Slovan Bratislava are clear favourites for this season’s Corgoň Liga title. Friday’s game, which didn’t even involve them, was a reasonable illustration of why. Žilina, the home side, went into it having failed to score in four successive matches. Winning the league appears to have become less of a priority for them than giving several of their promising teenagers an extended first-team opportunity. The visitors, second-placed Vion Zlaté Moravce, arrived on the back of a seven-game unbeaten run. Yet Vion were a let-down. Their passing through midfield was neat, even pretty at times, but they didn’t look like scoring until it was far too late and their defence was vulnerable every time Žilina attacked. Žilina won 4-1 thanks to two goals from Róbert Pich and one each from Milan Škriniar and Ricardo Nunes. Peter Orávik’s strike for Vion was barely a consolation. In the absence of Viktor Pečovský, 17-year old Škriniar took on the responsibility of holding Žilina‘s central midfield together and gave the latest in a succession of fine performances. He and his fellow youngsters will be thrilled with the result but will feel they deserved better than a crowd of just 1,190.
The other reason Slovan are favourites is, of course, their own form. Since their shock derby defeat by Trnava, they have won three games in a row, the latest of them being Saturday’s 3-1 success at home to Trenčín. Lester Peltier gave Slovan a half-time lead and they withstood some second-half pressure from their visitors before adding further goals through Nicolas Gorosito and Igor Žofčák (a penalty). There was still time for Trenčín’s David Depetris to score his 16th, of the season. There is continued talk of him getting Slovak citizenship and leading the national team’s attack – an intriguing prospect indeed.
Or perhaps Stanislav Griga and Michal Hipp will be giving serious consideration to the claims of Košice’s Dávid Škutka. A hat-trick in a 4-0 win over an admittedly hapless Nitra side took Škutka’s tally for the season to 13. His first goal had a large element of luck about it but the other two, both confident first-time finishes, certainly showed the sort of ruthlessness Slovakia lack. Serbian midfielder Uroš Matič claimed the last goal with a fine long-range strike. With 23 points from 9 games, Košice will go into the winter with the league’s best home record. Now if they could just improve on the measly three points they’ve picked up on their travels….
Prešov sacked Bulgarian coach Angel Červenkov during the week, appointing Ladislav Totkovič in his place. The initial effect, a 1-0 win over visiting Banská Bystrica, suggests the move may have been the right one. Peter Lipták’s deflected strike, just 12 minutes into the contest, was the difference between the sides, to the regret of Bystrica coach Norbert Hrnčár. ‘We conceded too early,’ he said. ‘Once they’d scored, Prešov had something to defend and it was hard going for us.’
Trnava will be fretting over the prospect of fighting a relegation battle in exile. As well as unveiling their stadium plans this week, they also moved coach Pavel Hoftych ‘upstairs’ to a director of football role, appointing Peter Zelenský in his place. Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat to Ružomberok will have shown Zelenský the extent of his task. The only goal was a route-one affair ; Mulumba Mukendi chased a long clearance from goalkeeper Lukáš Zich, brushed Marek Janečka’s challenge aside and slid the ball into the net. Thereafter, Ruža’s fifth clean sheet in nine away games was rarely in danger. As for Trnava, a lame defeat like this in front of just 2,500 fans seems a sad way to say even a temporary goodbye to what has often been Slovakia’s most atmospheric venue.
Sunday’s game, the Záhorie derby between Myjava and Senica, was won 2-1 by the visitors, for whom Peter Štepanovský and Juraj Piroška (a penalty) scored the important goals. Martin Černáček replied for Myjava, but their coach, Ladislav Hudec, readily admitted that his side were second best for much of the contest. The result does put Senica back on track after a sequence of four games without a win, but, as with Žilina and Vion, their challenge to Slovan at the top of the league has lacked the necessary consistency. Perhaps new-look surroundings will inspire them anew come the spring.
Žilina 4 Zlaté Moravce 1
Slovan 3 Trenčín 1
Košice 4 Nitra 0
Prešov 1 Banská Bystrica 0
Trnava 0 Ružomberok 1
Myjava 1 Senica 2