Luck was on champions’ side

Wasiluk gets Śląsk’s first as their former team-mate Sebastian Dudek looks on

“I’m not that kind of player,” said Marek Wasiluk after the game. For a defender, you would think that this means some hard tackling or possibly an explanation for a red card. Not really that was the case – Wasiluk played less than ninety minutes for Śląsk last autumn, not featuring since Stanislav Levy took manager’s role. And, when he was given the chance as half of the team was banned for improper celebrations after winning the title, Śląsk lost to Widzew at the season’s opening. This was his time to prove himself again.

– from Municipal Stadium in Wroclaw, Michał Zachodny

Wasiluk never moaned, never claimed he is unhappy because chances are not coming his way – kept his head down and showed what he can do in training. It’s fair to say that he is lucky. One of the tallest defenders in the league, sometimes looks too clumsily when moving around, especially on as muddy pitch as the one the game with Widzew was played. He played in European cups, won the title last season and achieved much more than anyone would imagine – probably even more than Wasiluk hoped for himself.

But that doesn’t mean he should give up and stop fighting. Occasions are made for people who are prepared to take them – Śląsk’s embarrassing dealings and appeals over Tomasz Jodłowiec move to Legia were one he was waiting for. Faith has given him even more, though, as step-in replacement, Rafał Grodzicki fell ill in the last week of preparations and could not feature against Widzew.

Beginnings were nervous though – Śląsk looked shaky at the back as Widzew tested them with fluid movement of front four of Pawłowski, Stępiński, Bruno and Bartoszewicz. Sebastian Dudek, ex-Śląsk midfielder honoured by the club before the kick off, wasn’t even needed that much in an energetic display that has given them the lead ten minutes into the match. Heavily linked with Legia, Widzew’s right back Łukasz Broź sent lovely diagonal pass that caught whole defence napping and Pawłowski appeared from Socha’s back to get into the box and beat Kelemen.

Śląsk were prepared for the answer. They quickly topped the gear as Ćwielong, Sobota and Diaz were only looking for Mila’s picking through balls and one of them caused chaos in Widzew’s box as Dragojević failed to catch low cross – Diaz effort was blocked for a corner and Mila’s inswinging cross found Kaźmierczak and keeper’s low save was finalized by the big man himself – Marek Wasiluk. Unlikely hero.

Current champions played well but only in stages – chances went begging short after and muddy pitch got to their legs as Widzew took advantage. Not to over-praise Wasiluk’s performance at centre-back, he made one hilarious mistake with an airkick, one that allowed Broź to smother the bar once again. Kelemen was forced to a decent low save again as half time approached.

The second half was less impressive – both teams tried to be more compact and controlled, allowing less chaos to bother their keepers as much as in the opening stages. Gaps were covered well enough as Sobota and Ćwielong drifted from the game. Widzew even had advantage but struggled to create chances – much more had happened in the last twenty minutes or so. Śląsk finally broke the deadlock as fine counter was started by… Sebastian Dudek and finished by Sobota, who took advantage of keeper’s hesitation and intelligence of Gikiewicz’s pass.

Widzew probably should score the leveller but Śląsk was lucky – when good cross was sent into the box and Dudek somehow linked with a fine header, ball hit the post, went off Kelemen’s back and not into the net. After the match, Widzew’s oldest player rued missed chances, claiming that his team should leave Wrocław with at least one point. But Dudek was not much bothered, to be honest, knowing that the survival will come with performances like today’s, though he was unsure of what should come next for his club.

“With so many things unsettled and organizational chaos at the club, it will be hard for us as a team to make a step up when next season comes,” Dudek said. He has a point, obviously – lots of good talent around him, as Mariusz Stępiński probably deserves for the biggest praise. Born in 1995, striker fought hard battles with his rivals, often outmuscling Kowalczyk and winning air balls with Wasiluk. Unlucky he did not score, but he shows that Widzew may capitalize on his talent in terms of money – surely bigger clubs are following Stępiński’s development closely, with even foreign brands interested in the man who played so well in the U17 Euro last summer, as Poland got to third place.

It would be too much to claim that Śląsk’s first victory on Saturday at new Municipal Stadium means they are firmly back in the race – even as Legia failed to get any points in Kielce later on that day. For many, they were lucky. On a muddy pitch Widzew’s shorter players kept the balance much better than most of their rivals but qualities – and finishing – was on host’s side. Given the way the victory was settled – Wasiluk’s goal in only his second start this season, and then Dudek’s poor back pass costing Widzew points, with few millimetres on several occasions separating them from the goal – Widzew can easily claim that the luck was not on their side. No one will be bothered by that at Śląsk – although the style was far from anything exciting, at least their 1000th game in Ekstraklasa was celebrated with three points.

One response to “Luck was on champions’ side

  1. Pingback: Round 16: The Leaders stumble as Lech close the gap | EKSTRAKLASAreview.co.uk·

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