Yet another Ekstraklasa round has been completed, and even more surprises have left the League looking slightly amiss. Two unfancied names sit atop the table, whilst last season’s leading sides are beginning to struggle a little. With a roundup of the Matchday 5 action, here’s Ryan Hubbard with his “Hot or Not” for the round.
HOT: Lechia Gdańsk
It all started with Barcelona. No-one gave Michał Probierz’s side a chance when they were announced as the Blaugrana’s opponents for their pre-season friendly. The Biało-zieloni not only went on to bust a few people’s betting coupons with that 2-2 draw against Messi, Neymar and co., but now they are showing a few people that it might not have been the fluke that many thought.
With the acquisition of Japanese star Daisuke Matsui, and getting the best out of players such as Paweł Buzała, Piotr Wiśniewski and Piotr Grzelczak, Lechia are the surprise package of the season so far. Whilst they are showing their abilities well, there is also the possibility that teams have underestimated them. But with their win over Legia, and the fact that they currently sit at the summit if the Ekstraklasa, they won’t be underestimated for much longer.
After his disastrous spells at both GKS Bełchatów and Wisła Kraków, Mr Probierz also deserves much credit for Lechia’s start. He was beginning to get a bad reputation as a coach, but thankfully the Polish Guardiola seems to be returning to his Jagiellonia best; turning average clubs into ones to watch.
NOT: Norbert Witkowski (Górnik Zabrze)
If any goalkeeper wants advice on how not to endear himself to his club’s supporters, then one should take note of Górnik goalkeeper Norbert Witkowski, and avoid following in his footsteps.
With Górnik holding onto an injury time 2-1 lead in the 112th Wielkie Derby Śląska against their greatest rivals Ruch Chorzów, Witkowski fumbled a Maciej Jankowski header into his own net – handing a point to the Niebiescy.
Former AO Iraklis and Arka Gdynia stopper Witkowski surprisingly took the first-choice spot on the departure of Łukasz Skorupski to Roma, but with new signing Pavels Šteinbors and young Mateusz Kuchta waiting in the wings, any mistake – let alone one so high-profile – could prove costly.
Special mention in the “goalkeeper fail” category goes to Zagłębie stopper Michał Gliwa.
HOT: Franciszek Smuda
Twelve months ago, Franciszek Smuda’s stock couldn’t be much lower. With an extremely disappointing Euro 2012 exit, rumours of losing the dressing room, and dissenting voices all around Poland, his eventual return to work, at German 2nd tier club SSV Jahn Regensberg, was met with derision.
Inevitable relegation, and his long-awaited return to Kraków were next for Smuda. Despite winning the title in his last spell at Reymonta 22, many of Wisła’s rival fans clapped their hands in delight at his appointment. And with cash extremely tight at the 13-time Polish champions, another season of misery was expected for the Biała Gwiazda.
But despite a couple of pre-season hiccups (a lack of players, training facilities relocated, and the laughable Sorin Oproiescu fiasco), Smuda is starting to prove his doubters wrong.
Whilst results haven’t been fantastic – a 3-2 victory over Korona Kielce being their only previous win – they have remained strong. Good draws against Śląsk, Jagiellonia and Górnik have kept them as one of just three undefeated sides in the league, and this weekend’s fantastic win against rivals Lech Poznań has left them level on points with Legia in fourth place. Maybe his appointment wasn’t the joke we were all expecting after all.
NOT: Zagłębie Lubin
With 351 minutes since their last league goal (471 in all competitions), saying that Zagłębie are struggling would be a massive understatement. With two points from their five games, they remain rooted in the relegation spots, and on recent showings it is difficult to see them getting out.
With strong replacements following their summer midfield exodus, much was expected of Zagłębie. But the dismissal of Pavel Hapal after Matchday 2, and the team’s inability to gel has left Lubin a very unhappy place.
It isn’t just their results either – their play is at times exccruciating to watch. With so many creative players in their team, it’s a wonder how they have only managed to scores single goal in all competitions. They can however take a small amount of solace in the fact that only the top-four and Lech have conceded more. A very small silver lining around a very black cloud.
HOT: José Rojo Martín (Pacheta)
With Leszek Ojrzyński dismissed after just three games, bottom of the league and just a point to their name, Korona Kielce’s players were so dismayed that they took to protesting against the decision. With their action in vain, it was a wonder how they would perform with a new man at the helm – Former Real Oviedo boss José Rojo Martín, or “Pacheta” for short.
Despite not yet speaking a word of Polish, Pacheta has already proved that football can be a universal language by getting his new side to perform with a tenacity that has been missing in their first few games. And whilst they faded slightly in the second half against Piast Gliwice, their first half showing was more than enough to see them run out 2-0 winners, giving them a first victory of the season and moving them off of the bottom.
NOT: Mariusz Rumak
Out of Europe, struggling in the league. Is this the same Lech Poznań who were challenging for the league title last season?! With just one win from five league games, and a disappointing Europa League exit to Lithuanian side Žalgiris Vilnius, you have to wonder how long Mr Rumak will last at Ul. Bułgarska before his superiors decide to take action.
Lech were strengthened well in the summer – the only major transfer out being Aleksander Tonev. But in Szymon Pawłowski they have a more than adequate replacement, whilst other areas have been reinforced too.
But whilst they struggled with injuries throughout pre-season, and are still a couple of players light, Rumak has had five games to get it right and hasn’t looked like doing so yet. There were even rumours that he was about to be replaced last month. After being steamrolled by Wisła on Sunday, the rumours will only snowball.
HOT: Śląsk Wrocław
Currently the most attractive team to watch in Poland, Śląsk have finally picked up a league result which sits nicely alongside their style of play. After three draws from their opening four games, Sunday’s comfortable 3-1 victory over Widzew Łódź – their first league win of the campaign – was well deserved.
With goals from Dalibor Stevanović, Marco Paixao and their erstwhile captain Sebastian Mila, the Lower Silesians recovered well from their undeserved 4-1 defeat in Spain on Thursday, preparing well for this week’s second leg.
Now with that first victory under their belts, Śląsk have a strong foundation to build from. On their recent displays they look the only side who has the ability to last the distance trying to regain their league title from Legia.
NOT: Legia Warszawa
Ah yes, the reigning champions. It hasn’t quite gone to plan for them so far. They now head into Tuesday’s Champions League Play-off with Steaua Bucharest with back-to-back league defeats – their first since September 2011.
With Legia’s squad increasing in both quality and depth, many thought their stroll to the title was just a formality. But juggling their league title defence with a push for the Champions League has seen 22 players turn out for the Wojskowi in just ten games. Is it the constant squad rotation which has seen them lose form?
Saturday’s home defeat to Lechia Gdańsk leaves Legia two points behind both their opponents and Górnik Zabrze, and while it still is very early on in this extended season, Jan Urban will want a quick response from his side. They are still big favourites for the league, but with the points split after thirty rounds, every single point can make a big difference.