These things happen in football. Not once you could hear the pundits say that you only succeed having luck on your side and that was exactly the case in Wisła’s epic ending to Europa’s League group stage. What seemed as highly unlikely mission, if not impossible, when Polish champions lost their second match in group K, changed to the craziest finish you could imagine in this year’s edition of UEFA’s second competition. Odense came back from two-nil down in last seconds of added time at Fulham, while players of Wisła where leaving the pitch slowly, realizing themselves how big was that chance.
This was not however only down to not ending their challenge in Europe, at most only replacement to their last-minute exit from Champions League, but more about what should come for Wisła Krakow next this winter. Especially as their form seemed to fade away straight after APOEL’s third goal in second game, while results also became worse and worse in Ekstraklasa. Ten points behind league leaders after seventeen match weeks is hardly what was expected from them in the summer – after all, Maaskant’s job seemed like a project still not finished but developing rapidly and threatening to creating another magnate in Polish football to settle at the top.
But even though Dutch manager is still living in Krakow and visiting his previous club, the project now is in different hands and the script has to be changed even faster than previous was created just year ago, when Wisła prepared for winter in the mood to challenge for the title with points separating them from the top. Now they need another rethink of the idea for the club as Maaskant’s trust in experienced players proved to be only short-sighted tactic that worked for not more than nine months. When Maaskant was just days from the sack, the stands at Reymonta chanted in demand of more youth and domestic talent on the pitch, as his fellow Dutchmen were only creating problems, not magic.
It is up for discussion whether that managerial change was really needed and if Maaskant deserved to go. And it is hardly Kazimeirz Moskal’s merit that Wisła’s luck changed rapidly – the stand-in manager and Maaskant’s assistant was lucky enough to see his most important players coming back from the sidelines. Patryk Małecki gave them confidence and character, while Maor Melikson just proved what a class act he is. Despite constant problems with defenders, he won four out of six games and that was enough to just get them through in Europe and make forget for a second what an awful ending it was in Ekstraklasa for Wisła Krakow.
They need to remember awful defeats to Cracovia, Górnik Zabrze and Polonia Warszawa more than their wins against Odense and Twente, if they want to really kick-off their chances in Ekstraklasa. For what is worth, Europa League is still a pleasing distraction for the fans and it is the domestic backyard that should matter the most for them. Eight wins in twelve games this fall in Europe are confirmation that there is class in this team, they can compete as equals with continent’s more or less average opposition, with a surprise against better ones from time to time, but to keep themselves on the UEFA’s map, they need victories in Ekstraklasa.
That’s why the epic reaction to the news coming to fans and players shouldn’t be the highlight of Wisła’s season so far. The lesson can be learned not from some mystical occurrence of luck on that Wednesday’s night, but only the one taken from defeats can be really useful. Michael Lamey is still too slow, Osman Chavez can’t really pass, while Junior Diaz seems to forgot what football is about. Wisła and Kazimierz Moskal need new, fresh blood to their squad and if something was confirmed in the Europa League, that was the luck they needed to advance, when it should be easier with better team to his disposal.
Of course, Kazimierz Moskal may not be the man to lead the team when spring comes. His record and experience of a football player is a great one but there are voices coming from Wisła’s team that it was his more down-to-earth behavior that won him the squad over, not respect of Biała Gwiazda legend that he undoubtedly is. Will it be the same when he will make his own, tough decisions and changes in the dressing room, bring own players and release few others? It shouldn’t be in doubt that if they really want to compete on three stages in just two months, they have to make sure that next weeks are not wasted on replaying that epic reaction from after the Twente match.
Yes, luck is needed to succeed in football. But it is just one part of the whole picture, the one that is unknown to fans that can see the progress or fall only during ninety minutes every weekend. There are many important steps for Wisła and Moskal to take now, and they don’t want to be counting on luck again – simply because they rode their luck so far more than they could ever wished to and there may not be more of it left. After all, in football reality, the best thing is to count on yourself.