Surprise? Lech Poznan won their first game with Sporting Braga, thanks to late Artjoms Rudnevs goal, when Latvian goal-scorer converted great through pass from Sergiej Krivets in 73rd minute, but it started with a surprise when Jose Mari Bakero announced his squad. If there were any expectations from Polish press and Lech fans, they were thrown out of the window when we all saw Bartosz Ślusarski in the starting line-up.
Although Polish press did everything they could to describe Lech as a team fully prepared to the game following two months long winter break, just after first quarter of the game everybody knew that those players in blue are some way off their top form. It may be harsh on Polish side to say that up to this moment they rode their luck in Europe, but it must be worrying that their performances are not getting better with every single game played in UEFA competition.
Bartosz Bosacki, Lech's captain, claimed that one match against Manchester City gives them and the club more experience than five league games but they have to learn faster than that to stay in the tournament for at least another round. At least Kolejorz fans can hope that Jose Mari Bakero will take another lesson, even from the game that was won, like he admitted his mistakes in starting line-up, subbing after first half hugely uninspiring duo of his wingers, Ślusarski and Jakub Wilk.
Spanish manager likes to confess how many opportunities on the pitch 4-2-3-1 formation gives him, especially with players he has in Lech, but with every minute of the Braga’s clash we could witness how huge loss is Peszko’s transfer to Cologne. They had more than a month to find someone who can fill his boots but instead Lech bought striker and central midfielder. I’m not saying that those were wrong moves – Ubiparip and Murawski are needed in the squad – but clearly they at least thought about signing creative right-footed winger, right?
Bakero gambled with his starting line-up, picking three left-footed midfielders playing just behind Rudnevs and Braga simply could not have easier task than to defend against Ślusarski, Wilk and Stilić. The first one, the most controversial signing made in the league during the winter transfer window, looked clueless and his 45-minute performance was as laughable as Lech fans protesting the UEFA fine, wearing stewards coats as football federation claimed that there is not enough of them inside the ground…
Are there any positives that Bakero can take out of this game? Sergiej Krivets was Lech best performer tonight and his pass to Rudnevs (which was also third assist in this seasons continental campaign) being the highlight but also deliveries from set-pieces again were one of better class. Although poor pitch helped a lot, Lech’s defence did not allow their rivals for too much, limited their chances to one fine save from Kotorowski and it must be said that composed performance from Bosacki at the heart of hosts defence played great part of it.
Polish side must not forget that the winter will be gone very soon and they may not have it so easy against better teams and in early stages Braga showed that technically they are better side than Lech. Their quality, this time reduced by weather and mentality of Poznan players, must be a warning sign before revenge, as poor performances from Bakero’s boys – not mentioned before – Seweryn Gancarczyk at left back, Ivan Djurdević as defensive midfielder and Semir Stilić as Lech’s playmaker.
On the positive note, we should all mark that what was expected from Lech, they showed on the pitch – huge will to win, ambition and focus through-out the game. Braga looked more than surprised when they found their rivals tackling hard, fighting for every ball on every inch-square of the pitch and they could not come up with the answer. If someone is looking for a surprise, it was Braga’s performance – despite injury crisis, poor league form, it was negative attitude of the Portuguese side that should worry their fans.
We should all hope that the second game in Braga will be different story, as this match was in general poor. But the revenge gives also space for Bakero to work on, or rather prove that he didn’t waste his two winter camps. In Spaniards mind, Lech should be playing passing football, positive and entertaining and, while the state of the pitch in Poznan once again didn’t allow them for that, in Portugal they will have their chance to shine on the big stage. This result is Lech’s advantage but even tonight’s win should not be taken as a positive – rather humble lesson to learn as quick as possible. Clock is ticking, the test is in just one week time...