Today’s classic encounter between Legia and Wisła in Warsaw may not have been a title-decider or even one to give either side a top place in the table but emotions were high as strikes from Danijel Ljuboja and Janusz Gol gave the much needed breathing space for hosts manager, Maciej Skorża. On the other side on the pitch, just after last whistle, there was not even a single smile as Wisła and manager Robert Maaskant are losing what has left from the huge credit gained after they won Polish championship last season with some impressive performances.
Just couple of weeks ago, the pressure was all on Skorża, as his side was struggling again, good on course to match the negative record of eleven defeats noted last league campaign, back line in shatters, naïve in switching from defence to attack. Two most painful of the new experiences being the defeats against Podbeskidzie at home and in Warsaw derby with Polonia, away. Skorża was given an ultimatum, for what seems like a countless of times during his tenure at Legia, to qualify easily in Polish Cup, then win twice in the league and get at least a draw against Happoel in Europa League group stages.
Relief came just couple of hours ago, when fourth victory in four recent games was noted. Skorża is safe although questions whether his side can cope without such ultimatum and against different kind of teams still stands. He will have to win a fair few more to be given more space and freedom at the club, while the board must know that every under-pressure manager will eventually make costly mistake. Fans are sure that too many of those were made in last few months…
While the buoyant Skorża could tell his critics to get off his back for a while, Robert Maaskant from Wisła Krakow will have to welcome them as he opens the newspapers on the Monday morning. It’s not even the Champions League defeat that cost him the reputation he gained shortly after he came to Poland, but recent failings of his squad that are proving Wisła to be fragile even on domestic pitches, while foreign opposition just hammered them in two opening games of Europa League group stage.
Wisła struggles to the point it’s almost painful to watch, as experienced defenders fail to clear easy ball, their positioning is appealing, while there is no sign of that certain spark in their attacking play, the one that has given them the much-needed advantage over league opponents last season. The memories are still alive but Wisła have problems all over the pitch and, looking at their back up, fans will notice that there isn’t really too much space for improvement, as it was seen in today’s match.
Legia maybe wasn’t even at their best, undoubtedly still having some way to go if they want to be regarded as firm title favorites but that certain performance was enough today and again, it was their fluidity that proved to be the final nail to Wisła’s coffin. All the credit must go to Skorża for how he turned the head of young winger Maciej Rybus, who had the best series of matches for months lately with his performance against champions gaining him deserved Man of the Match title. He was supported by Miroslav Radović, once again at his visionary and skillful best, and Danijel Ljuboja whose experience and clever movement gave them advantage in crucial area. Of course, poor judgment from Kew Jaliens, Wisła’s center-back, was as important to how the thing went for Legia tonight.
And those went swiftly as Legia pressed high up in the pitch straight away, winning possession easily and attacking quickly but wisely. It may not be as impressive as it sounds but for all the problems Wisła had recently, another opponent with a plan not to give them any chance to catch a breath was the last thing Maaskant’s team needed. Twenty-five minutes gone, clever flick from Radović, one of many that night, gave space to Rybus down the left tunnel and he went all the way just to pass it back to unmarked Ljuboja, who, after initial scramble with Pareiko, found the net. At that certain moment, Chavez was laying on the pitch, while Jaliens just threw his arms into the air, looking at the first teammate he could find to put all the blame on – both not bothered to stand up and do their defensive business while there was still time.
Second half was no different, even though Maaskant tried in desperate moves to change the way it went. Though Legia settled back, still full of confidence and dangerous on the break, they had no problem with spoiling all the fun Wisła could have had enjoying much more possession than in the first part of the game. Again, it took Legia twenty-five minutes to find the net as Maciej Rybus played crucial role again with clever through pass to incoming Janusz Gol, who took one touch to control and second to finish the game. Wisła was on their backside, defenders once again not even close to the action. All they could do was to stare at each other and cry in disbelief that just four months ago they were crowned champions of Poland.
The pressure that went off Skorża’s back with that important Legia win quickly found new victim and it’s Robert Maaskant. He will have to answer some tough questions, face the deserved critique for recent catastrophic performances but the blame must be on players as well – having as many experienced players as Wisła have, Jaliens, Chavez, Pareiko, Sobolewski, Iliev, Nunez, Kirm, they must take some responsibility for what happened in Warsaw, Enschede and Krakow lately. There is no point of even starting rumour of him being close to the sack but as the record attendance at Pepsi Arena witnessed how fragile the champions are, Dutch manager may have the headache he did not have in Poland yet.