Thursday, July 31, 2014

Vrdoljak will be forgiven....unless Legia go out

To some people it might be stating the obvious, but Legia's captain Ivica Vrdoljak is on borrowed. Despite his sides 4-1 triumph over Celtic last night, he missed two penalties. Fortunately for him, his colleagues managed to score two late goals to give the Polish champions a 'meaty' advantage. If the result had remained 2-1, Vrdoljak would almost certainly have had to expect a wave of criticism.

His first penalty went wide. He saw the goalkeeper moving in one direction and decided to hit the ball in the other, but he tried to be too accurate. What's hard to understand is, if he could tell the goalkeeper was going one way, why not hit the ball more to the centre, or slightly to the right of centre, thus guaranteeing he would get it on target? The goalkeeper already committed himself, so he wouldn't have saved it.

The second one was worse. Vrdoljak was keen to make up his earlier miss [even though Lukasz Broz had been assigned to take the next penalty]. He grabbed the ball and wanted to take the same penalty he had taken earlier, but this time get it right. The goalkeeper worked this out and saved it without too much trouble.

His misses were devastating, but Legia made up for them twice. First he missed the chance to raise a 2-1 scoreline to 3-1, but then Michal Zyro did just that. Not long after Zyro's goal he could have made it 4-1, but missed again, only for Jakub Kosecki to score late on.

The penalties weren't the only opportunities Legia didn't take in this match. They had other great chances. Kucharczyk could have played the ball to Radovic in the first half, who would have found himself clean through on goal, but decided to shoot and hit the ball against the defender. In the second half Zyro found himself one on one with the goalkeeper from a few yards out but managed to hit it straight at him. It's the penalties that will be remembered though.

Most people knew Legia needed to take a decent advantage with them in to the 2nd leg. Before this game, they'd have taken a 4-1 without even thinking about it. Miroslav Radovic even said before the match that he'd take any kind of win over Celtic if it was offered. Given how the match played out, with Legia taking charge in after half time, fans will feel like they could be home and dry, but they're not.

It should be remembered that Celtic have a knack for turning things around. In 2005 they lost 0-5 away at Artmedia Petrzalka, but managed to win 4-0 at home. On this occasions Artmedia built up enough of a lead to survive on aggregate. Shakhter Karagandy were not as fortunate. They're 2-0 home victory over the Celts last season was not enough, and the Scots managed to win 3-0 in the return leg. Four years ago Braga's 3-0 home victory against Celtic was enough, but they still lost 1-2 away from home. It won't be surprising if Legia lose their away game, the question remains how much they lose by. With their opponents having to attack from the get go, Legia should counter attack. An away goal would do them a lot of good, and should demoralize the Scottish champions.

If Legia make it through to the play off round, Vrdoljak's penalties will be forgotten, but if they don't, people will remember them and the fact that Legia could have been done and dusted in the home leg.

This isn't the first time a team or player has missed more than one penalty in a match. Holland were beaten by Italy in the Euro 2000 semi final. During the match they missed two penalties and then failed to convert three of their four in the penalty shoot. As for a single player record, Argentinian Martin Palermo once missed three penalties in one game for his country during a Copa America match against Colombia.

One thing you can give Vrdoljak is, he's got guts. After the match he stated that if Legia has been awarded a third penalty, he's have taken that too. Looks like he was more than prepared to equal Palermo's record.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Radovic hits two goals as Legia smash Celtic

Despite missing two penalty kicks, Legia Warszawa manged to put on a classy show, scoring four goals against Celtic in the first leg of their Champions League third qualifying round match at the Pepsi Arena on Wednesday night.

Miroslav Radovic once again carried the Polish side on his shoulders by scoring twice in the first half, after Celtic had taken an early lead in the 7th minute. Things got even worst for Celtic when Efe Ambrose saw a straight red card in the 44th minute for taking down Michal Kucharczyk.

Legia could easily have walked away with a larger advantage heading into the second leg, but their captain, Ivica Vrdoljak managed to miss two penalty kicks - first in the 59th minute and then in the 87th minute.

Thankfully for the Polish champions, Michal Zyro and Jakub Kosecki added two goals late on. to give Legia a 4-1 advantage heading in to the second leg.

Legia: Kuciak - Brzyski, Astiz, Rzezniczak, Broz - Duda, Vrdoljak, Jodlowiec, Zyro (87. Saganowski), Kucharczyk (75. Kosecki) - Radovic

Legia 4, Celtic 1: Goal Highlights

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

5 reasons Legia won't advance in to the Champions League play off round

I don't like to be the skeptic who ruins everybody's fun, but looking at it realistically, there are at least five reasons Legia are not likely to get passed Celtic and advance in to the final qualifying round of the Champions League.

1) Match order

Legia play their second leg match away from home. Historically, Celtic have been known for doing a heck of a lot better in Europe at home, than they have away. There was even a long period of time when Celtic had a horrible record of consecutive away losses in the Champions League [14 away matches without a win, including qualifiers], but that ended with their 2-0 win away to Dynamo Moscow in the 09/10 season. Celtic's away record in Champions League games has improved since then, although their home record is still a lot stronger. Last season they lost 0-2 away to Kazakhstan side Shakhter Karagandy, but turned the match around in the home leg, winning 3-0. There's a reason the team's who finish 1st in their group play their second leg at home, it's seen as an advantage, and for Celtic, it will be a big advantage. If Legia fail to win their home leg, there will be nothing to talk about.

2) Experience

Celtic have the experience on Legia. They might not be the best club around, but they've gotten passed the Champions League qualifiers far more times than Legia, who, since the Champions Cup became re-branded as the Champions League, only managed it once in in five tries. Celtic have made it in to the Champions League through the qualifiers five times in 10 attempts. That's a 50% record. Not great, but still better than Legia's 20%.

3) Radovic is Legia's best player

This may sound shocking to some. You might be thinking, 'what?' Radovic being Legia's best player shows just how weak this side is. The guy has never been called up to Serbian national team, and he hasn't been called up to the Polish National team either. Not only that, he has played for Legia since 2006. That's eight years, and no other club has been interested in buying him. As much as he says he loves this club, you know that even if a relegation battling German team went in for him, he wouldn't think twice about it. I'm not saying that he's a bad player, he's okay. Heck, by Ekstraklasa standards he's very good, but in general terms when you look at other, much stronger leagues in Europe, he really is nothing more than average. Legia need this guy, meanwhile Celtic let Greek international Samaras go because they felt they didn't need him anymore. Bit of a contrast.

4) Legia's poor form

Despite Radovic's criticism of the media for their criticism of the team, I think they've got a point. He feels it was unjust to criticize the team so early on in the season, but why should they wait? The season has begun. Legia lost the Polish super cup, they drew at home to St Patrick's [a semi professional team] and then got beaten at home in their first league match. This is very bad form and it deserves criticism. Personally I still think they're in poor form. They may have won their last two games, but they weren't convincing. Yes 5-0 looks impressive, but if you saw the match then you'd know that the scoreline was a little flattering. It was fairly close until Legia scored their second in the 70th minute, then St Patrick's had to open up and attack more, leading to Legia scoring three more goals. The main worry right now is the way Legia are currently playing. They're slow and uneventful. They don't seem to have the ability to surprise anyone. It might be enough for Cracovia, but Celtic?  

5) They're Polish

Okay so they're not destined to fail because they're Polish, but let's face it, Polish sides tend to choke when they play bigger opponents in the Champions League qualifiers. The role of underdogs does not seem to help them in these qualifiers like it does in, say, the Europa League sometimes. I'm not talking about the games against Barcelona or Real Madrid, I'm talking about Anderlecht, Panathinaikos, Shakhtar Donetsk and Steaua Bucharest. All these teams were favorites against the Polish club who played them [Wisla Krakow and Legia in these cases] and every time there was a feeling that the Polish champs had a chance, but they lost every time. Here, we have a similar situation. Celtic would have to be considered the favorites, but Legia is seen by some to be in with a chance if they play to their full potential [whatever that is]. I just think, as usual, those who believe in Legia are setting themselves up for disappointment.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Lewandowski scores again with outrageous chip

Polish striker Robert Lewandowski has made a good first impression at Bayern Munich, having scored in his first two games.

Lewandowski added to his tally on Saturday by scoring the first goal with an outrageous chip in Bayern Munich's 2-2 draw against Borussia Monchengladbach in the semifinals of the Telekom Cup (they won 5-4 in PK's).

Here is Lewandowski's goal:

Big clubs after Piszczek - Real Madrid not one of them

There is thought to be a lot of interest from big clubs in Polish right back Lukasz Piszczek, with the likes of Barcelona and Roma being mentioned. Whether these are just rumors or there is any truth to the news will be seen over the summer.

One major club who does not look like they will be signing the Polish defender is Real Madrid.

Their manager Carlo Ancelotti recently commented on speculation that the Spaniards would be looking to sign the Polish international.

'I admire Piszczek, he's a very good player, but we already have adequate cover for that position. Arbeloa and Carvajal are more than capable of giving me a stable and high quality performance for the following few years. Piszczek is a great experienced player, but we do not need to add another right back to the squad. I'm happy with what we currently have.'


Thursday, July 24, 2014

UEFA give false fact in Legia match report

On a couple of previous occasions I remember reading match reports of either the Polish national team or Polish clubs and found that parts of these reports were, quite simply, incorrect. Back then I didn't give these reports too much thought and forgot about them. Now the issue has arisen again. In the St Patrick's Athletic v Legia Warszawa match report on the UEFA site, it states

'Radovic then added his second and his team's third and good link-up play with Ondrej Duda on 82 minutes, before substitute Saganowski slotted in to the bottom corner soon after coming on.'

The bold text is incorrect. All you need to do is have a look at the goal [you can see it here by scrolling to the St Patrick's v Legia goal highlights] to see that striker Marek Saganowski did not at any point slot the ball in to the bottom corner. If anything, he bundled the ball in after it had taken a deflection. During the match it was even debatable if he got a touch.

Some may see this as slightly trivial and unimportant, but you'd expect the official UEFA website to give an accurate match report of a Champions League qualifying game. Ignoring the fact that the match report is not particularly detailed and no journalist has put their name to it [leaving to assume that it was a rush job by someone who works for the site], mistakes like this are not acceptable because they give people who missed the match and decide to use UEFA as their source, a false description of an action that took place.

Europa League: Lech and Ruch go through while Zawisza get knocked out

Lech Poznan and Ruch Chorzow both managed to make it in to the Europa League 3rd qualifying round this evening.

After a shocking 1-0 defeat away to Estonian club Nomme Kalju, Lech managed to turn the tie around and win 3-0 at home, thanks to goals from Tomasz Kedziora, Kasper Hamalainen and David Kowacki.

Ruch Chorzow took a 3-2 lead to FC Vaduz of Liechtenstein and managed to hold on to a 0-0 draw that was enough for them to go through.

Despite Zawisza Bydgoszcz doing well to only lose 2-1 in their away match, Zulta Waregem proved to be too much for the Polish cup winners as they picked up a 3-1 win in Poland and knocked the Polish side out.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014