Who would have think about that, eh? Lech Poznań, Champions League rejects, being adopted to group of death in Europa League are now top of it and they are quite close to being the biggest sensation of this seasons' competition. In first round of the group stage they drew with Juventus away, 3-3 with Rudnevs being the hero after scoring three - the last one in the added time after a screamer from about 30 yards. Second tie against Salzburg and much easier game, You would think, no?
It wasn't. Where did it all go wrong at the beginning? To be honest, right after the start it was away team, who looked like they've been playing for the first time at their new stadium, having 41,000 people behind. Lech was nervous, not able to put few passes together, Stilić anonymous, Rudnevs isolated, Peszko too nervous, defence all over the place. Thankfully, Salzburg isn't Juve or ManCity and Lech survived first thirty minutes only kicking the ball upfield counting on Peszko, Rudnevs or Kikut pace.
Then, they had the best spell. Finally they got into the game and started playing football. Peszko got better of guests left back few times but his delivery was poor once again, often making mistake with his final touch. It could be seen that Jacek Zieliński, Lech's manager, encouraged his team to attack in this period. Much more work for him was needed as still it was a chaotic encounter for most of the first half. But he earned his money in those fifteen minutes of half time as Lech came on the pitch like they left it - brave, attacking and free flowing.
First goal came pretty quickly after a corner and great header from Arboleda. There is a lot of talk about scouting and watching opposition before every game but how Salzburg didn't notice that Lech's defender is the best one in the air in defence and attack? Their mistake made 41,000 people happy but more goods followed as Lech continued to threaten Austrian team with another smart moves involving Rundevs, Peszko and Stilić. In 54th minute Jacek Zieliński made the best sub this season - Jacek Kiełb for injured Wojtkowiak, with Kikut stepping down as right back and Kiełb playing in his favored role on the right wing.
Young Pole did great job holding the ball, fighting for it but it's Krivets who deserves mention for his work as defensive midfielder, after coming to Poznań few months ago as attacking player. Box-to-box player making the work easier for Injać who stupidly earned yellow card and will miss next game in Europa League. But Salzburg was not easy opposition, also threatening Lech's goalie, Jasmin Burić, with several shots that young Bosnian handled very well.
In the last fifteen minutes Lech attacked again and this time they produced a goal following great move. Jacek Kiełb was involved, passing neat through ball to Stilić who made it easy for Peszko to score after his inch perfect cross. Salzburg was in pieces and huge credit for this win must go to Zieliński as his directions from the bench and during half time really made the difference. Also, it gave him the satisfaction after latest accusation from one newspaper that he was involved in corruption affair few years ago. He and the club dismissed the reports but that didn't helped Lech's preparations to this game.
Two games behind and what now for Lech? Not playing even close to their best for most parts during this game, not to mention the league where they are placed eleventh and top of the Europa League group where they have to face Juventus and Manchester City... At some point this adventure with European competition will end and they must focus on Ekstraklasa to get back into the championship battle but if they will be able to rise up to the occasion at least once during the games against Italian and English opposition... Who knows? Maybe it will last bit longer than those four games left in the group stage. Hopefully - as tonight's game showed, over 41,000 people at new stadium deserve such entertainment. Not to mention Polish football, cause it simply needs success to prove right all the changes incoming with EURO 2012*.
* - I must excuse You but You must realize that every post about Polish football simply has to include a mention about EURO 2012. Just... it must be there.