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Poland Trip part four

GAME

Lechia Gdansk 0 Korona Kielce 5

Ekstraklasa

Attendance: 7,066

Gate: 200 zloty (£41.65). VIP Prestige.

Programme: Not available.

Purchasing my ticket online I decided to treat myself. Considering I would struggle to get in most Premier League grounds for £40, let alone sample any kind of hospitality it was a no brainer as a one off for me.

Unsure of what to expect, I arrived at the Stadion Energa Gdansk or the Baltic Arena as it is called without sponsorship, a little too early. The sheer size of the place is breathtaking. On top of that the amber colour makes this a spectacle whenever it comes into view. I had a wander around the outside concourse. Once again the bitter Baltic wind was biting away at the few of us brave enough to be out in it.

Finding my entrance, I practically dived inside to get away from the wind and was welcomed by a number of hostesses who welcomed me and pointed me in the direction of the refreshments on offer. Free food and drink was available and appeared to be for the whole of the time I was there, a meal of chicken, potatoes and some vegetables was delicious.

Suitably fed and watered it was time for the sides to come out, and so I went to find my seat. Top row at the end, ideal, first seat I had come to. Padded leather. Plenty of room between seats and leg room in front. I approve.

Out came the teams and the Lechia ultras did their utmost to raise their heroes, the only problem was that you could hear the leader over the PA system over the fans. Shame really.

Five minutes in and Lechia hit the post, smart passing move and Wolski hammered an effort off the woodwork. This was followed a few minutes later by a chance from an acute angle for Katcharava, his effort was tipped over by Kuciak in the Lechia goal. Although not the keepers finest moment of the night it was not too far off.

The game seemed to be going nowhere when with 25 minutes gone a smart pass by Zubrowski found Katcharava in acres of space, he picked his spot and fired home. 1-0. The next 20 minutes must count amongst the worst for Lechia for some time. They fell apart. Their fans turned on them and Korona added another 3 goals. All before the break.

On the half hour, a great run and through ball by Mozdzen was cut out at the last moment by Lewandowski only for the ball to break to Gorski to roll into the empty goal. 2-0. Thirty-eighth minute and a corner swung in by Mozdzen was flicked on at the near post by Kovacevic straight into the path of the unmarked Rymaniak arriving at the far post. He easily finished. 3-0. With a minute to the whistle, the worst of the lot. A ball from Rymaniak rolled across the box, everyone watched, apart from Katcharava, who slid in and lifted the ball past the keeper. 4-0.

Half-time. I was off for food and drink. I am sure Lechia did not receive such good hospitality in that 15 minutes.

After the break was a walk in the park for the visitors. At 4-0 up it pretty much has to be. Apart from Rymaniak tried to turn a cross past Gostomski in his own goal, somehow it was kept out, the visitors controlled the game. A penalty was awarded to them midway through the second period, Romario Balde bringing down Ken Kallaste. Yes, Ken! Zubrowski saw his poor effort easily saved by Kuciak. That was his best moment.

Korona didn’t have to wait too long before the fifth, with just over 15 to go, Kosakiewicz slid the ball in from the right for substitute Soriano to tap home. 5-0.

That was that. A night to forget for the Welsh first team coach of the hosts Adam Owen.

Pre-Match

A great day spent in Gdansk. I experienced Polish dumplings, a bit like ravioli.

The main highlight of the day though was a trip to the ‘Solidarnosc’ museum. A very informative trip into the lives of the people who helped to change the face of the world. Memories of the television pictures from 1981 came flooding back and the gates where the demands and crowds to support the strikers, a poignant moment.

Post Match

A taxi home from right outside the stadium, back to the hotel, to pack my bags and finish my trip.

Thank you Poland!

FACTS

Games: 434

Goals:  1478

Grounds: 207

Games since a 0-0: 47

Milestone: 700th away goal – Maciej Gorski (Korona Kielce)

Random Fact: 32nd penalty save out of 136

SOUNDTRACK

Eat to the Beat – Blondie

I’m Free

I’m free to do what I want any old time
I say, love me, hold me, love me, hold me
‘Cause I’m free to do what I want any old time

Poland Trip part three

GAME

Legia Warszawa 2 Arka Gdynia 0

Ekstraklasa

Attendance: 14,428

Gate: 70 zloty (£15.62).

Programme: 3 zloty (£0.63)

Standing just inside the turnstile, out in the open, in driving freezing rain is hardly my idea of fun. But that is exactly what I was doing 90 minutes before kick-off at the Polish Army Stadium on Sunday evening.

This was the only Ekstraklasa game that I had not been able to pre-purchase a ticket for, inquiring over the phone as to the possible availability, I was told it shouldn’t be a problem. If I had known it would be 17,000 empty seats of  problem I would have stayed in the warmth of a cafe or restaurant a bit longer.

Anyway, the reason for me standing in the rain was due to the fact I had my tablet with me. Given the reaction of some of the stewards this was akin to a machete or something as they all started shouting. Five minutes later I was searched (again) by somebody new and led away. Trying my best to explain I was on a day trip from Gdansk I was led into the under stadium car park and told I would have to leave my tablet with a kind of reception area and I could collect it after the game.

Back out into the rain and the marquee area I had clocked to get a warm drink and some fairly decent scran of sausage and pork steak. Very tasty. Food scoffed, I made my way up the steps to have a look at the ground and was pleasantly surprised to see the playing area glassed off and therefore fairly wind free.

Finally with 10 minutes to kick-off I made my way to my seat in the Kazimierz Deyna Stand and got ready for kick-off. Once again the Ultras kept us all entertained, though this display was far more about chanting than the visual display offered in Poznan. The noise they made for the few thousand in attendance was incredible, a full stadium must be some experience.

Underway, the opening was cagey and a little error strewn, until the 10th minute. Then the visitors had a decent bit of build up play before an effort by Kun from 20 yards stung Malarz’s palms in the home goal. From the resulting corner an effort by Siemasko flew across the front of the goal where the slightest touch would have surely taken it into the back of the net.

Whilst Legia were in control it took them 30 minutes to test the Arka stopper, Guilherme with an almost identical effort to Kun’s being saved spectacularly by Steinbors. The diminutive Brazilian seeing this as time to rouse the crowd even more. Legia were now picking up their game and moments later the midfielder set up Niezgoda at the near post, but his effort was blocked.

In the 37th minute the hosts took the lead, a free-kick curled in low by Macynski was swept home by Niezgoda who looked suspiciously offside, he even seemed to think so himself, but no flag, correctly as it turned out, 1-0. It was all Legia now, and with minutes to go before the interval a loose high ball in the area was spectacularly scissor kicked to goal by Guilherme only for the effort to be stopped brilliantly by Steinbors.

Back to the warmth of the concourse for the interval for 15 minutes before back out into the cold but noisy arena.

It looked like only a matter of time before Legia added a second, on the hour Guilherme had an effort blocked by a brave block from the visitors defence. Seemingly bored with all the action at the other end Legia’s Spanish central defender Astiz tried to turn a cross into his own net, Malarz reacting brillianly to claw the ball away for a corner.

We entered the last 15 minutes, Kucharczyk was set up by Guilherme and smashed an effort against the bar from a tight angle with the help of a fingertip from Steinbors. Determined to get a second, the 2 players involved in the last move swapped roles and both back heeled the ball in the 6 yard box only to see Steinbors save on the line. Finally, with 5 minutes remaining the second came, on the break Kucharczyk was free and this time Steinbors could not do a thing, 2-0. Game over.

Pre-Match

So, an internal flight, always a source of intrigue. LOT Polish Airlines were to be no different. A propellor plane too. On a day when 100 kmph winds were forecast. What could go wrong? As we waited at the beginning of the runway for a plane landing, I was delighted to see the Ryanair plane get quite low before pulling up again. It was getting blown all over. So we would wait then? Not likely. Straight to it, a few yards in and we aborted the effort.

Now I am not scared of flying at all. But as we turned around on the runway, went straight back and turned around again I was beginning to wonder if this was  the day I would meet my maker. Attempt number two was successful in the end, though how we got up I have no idea and when we did we got blown all over the place.

Somehow safely in Warsaw, I had a mooch around the old town. Not a place for a Sunday as most things appeared to be closed.

Post Match

Once I had collected my tablet, a taxi ride to the airport later, I was on my return flight to Gdansk. None of the previous malarkey. Or so I thought. Coming in to land was unbelievable. As we managed it, I hate to think what the Ryanair flight must have been like. We were tipping one way then the other, easily at 45 degrees to the runway. it was like the best roller-coaster ride ever.

FACTS

Games: 433

Goals:  1473

Grounds: 206

Games since a 0-0: 46

Milestone: 194th Clean Sheet

Random Fact: My 4th highest attendance of all-time

SOUNDTRACK

Lovegod – The Soup Dragons

I Want Some

Looking ahead, the next level we’re gonna take it to
I guess I should be happy it’s a day that we made it through

Poland Trip part two

GAME

Baltyk Gdynia 2 Swit Skolwin 1

Trzecia Liga ‘Grupa 2’

Attendance: 520

Gate: 50 zloty (£10.33). VIP ticket

Programme: Free with admission

Bit of a weird one to find this. You can see floodlights from about half a mile away, with very cold drizzle in freezing wind coming from the Baltic Sea. Not Baltyk’s ground. It was their rivals Arka. Making my way past this there was another ground just beyond it. Not Baltyk’s ground. At the very end of Olimpljska is the National Railway Stadium, or Narodowy Stadion Rugby to give it is proper name.

Approaching the turnstile I saw VIP tickets for sale, why the hell not I thought, a decision that was to pay dividends later. Free programme sheet in hand I made my way on to the ground. A quick scan around I could not find where I was supposed to go, I was soon assisted by a kind club official and shown the way to where I needed to be. Also showing me where I would be provided with refreshments at half-time.

Narodowy Stadion is a one sided affair, a raised seating area above a 3G pitch that looked very much like the one Widnes play on. The other 3 sides are all fenced off, though open to the elements you are perfectly able to view the game as a few people chose to do. Opposite the stand is the impressive looking Gdynia Arena.

Seat found and wiped down from the rain I battened down the hatches and wrapped myself up against the elements.

The 2 teams came out and it was soon apparent that the hosts were what I presume is their ‘away’ kit of all red. The visitors looking like Argentina in sky blue and white stripes with black shorts and socks. The usual handshake malarkey done we got underway. At the start of play Swit were top of the league with Baltyk one of a number of teams hot on their heels. It was the visitors that started slightly brighter though the play soon swung the other way and the hosts were creating opportunities.

After both sides went close with long range efforts it was Gdynia’s Duda who shot straight at Matloka when he should have scored. The same striker then just failed to get a touch on a cross that looked like a certain goal. Neither side was giving a quarter in this weather affected match, which looked like it might ruin this contest, but they are used to such conditions in this area of Poland. In the 39th minute the visitors took the lead, a ball over the top, a defensive error and Filipowicz was through, it looked like a very tight angle, but he did what he had to do and finished in style, 1-0.

The lead was not to last too long, a free-kick swung into the box wasn’t cleared properly, played back in, Kochanek flicked the ball up and on with an outstretched foot and Szur powered a header in off the foot of the post. 1-1 and that was it for the opening 45 minutes.

At the break I made my way into the hospitality area, where warm soup and a radiator brought warmth and feeling back to my body. Well worth the additional money.

Swit took the game by the scruff of the neck early on after the restart and had 2 or 3 opportunities that probably should have led to a goal. Though the first big chance fell to Baltyk when Duda broke at pace, played in Letniowski whose shot hit a defender on the head whilst he was stood on the line, incredible. Quite how Wojdak got to clear it I do not know, and I am not sure he does either.

Midway through the second period we got the winner, a long ball out wide was played across the goal by Kolodzieski, all the way to the far post where Kuzimski slammed the ball home to start the wild celebrations in the stands.

Both sides had chances to score again but neither managed to really trouble either keeper. Baltyk claimed 3 valuable points and closed the gap to the leaders Swit to a single point.

Pre-Match

An early morning return trip to Gdansk on a similar style train was a nice way to relax on a Saturday morning, after a change at my hotel I was back off out to catch a local train north to Gdynia Orlowo station. The 25 minutes walk in the rain was at best refreshing.

Post Match

A fast walk back to catch a train, that again was a rickety old job, back to Gdansk I made my way back to my hotel, stopping off at Kebab Star to experience a Polish kebab, a King Sandwich. Think chicken kebab on a panini. Different.

Back in my hotel I watched the Saturday night Ekstraklasa game on TV in the warmth. Ahh.

FACTS

Games: 432

Goals:  1471

Grounds: 205

Games since a 0-0: 45

Milestone: 45 games since a 0-0 is now my joint 3rd best run

Random Fact: My only game in Poland that was not shown live on TV

SOUNDTRACK

Aglio e Olio – Beastie Boys

 

Firestarter

Yeah! I’m the pain you tasted, fell intoxicated
I’m a firestarter, twisted firestarter

Poland Trip part one

GAME

Lech Poznan 1 Wisla Krakow 1

Ekstraklasa

Attendance: 26,361

Gate: 45 zloty (£9.30)

Programme: 5 zloty (£1.03)

What a way to start a trip.

Having witnessed the Poznan fans on TV a few years back when they visited Man City, this game was on my must do list. It was that good, I hope when I return to Polska that they are at home again.

Arriving at the INEA Stadion, to give its current name, or Bulgarska Street Stadium as it is otherwise known, I was impressed by the size from the outside as the blue lights lit up the cold night Poznan air. I quickly found my entrance and was inside. The noise that you can hear as you approach the stadium starts to grow, first though having not eaten for some time I was off for some food. Not for the last time Kielbasa was consumed with some accompaniment adding spice, delicious.

Food eaten. Time to go out into the atmosphere.

The ground is fairly typical of modern day stadium. The main difference was the amount of leg room you get, take note other clubs. There isn’t a lot to relate about the ground that you could not probably guess. I was opposite the Main Stand, sat on a white seat that made up the ‘z’ in the clubs name. To my right, was a two tiered structure which also houses the away fans, if any exist. Opposite is where all the action happens, where the noise comes from, where the pyro party takes place. The noise, the show, it drags you in and keeps your attention all night.

The Ultras were at it when I got there. Did not stop all the match. Were still singing as I made my way into the Poznan night. Whilst a little orchestrated, the overall effect and noise was incredible.

A through ball was controlled somehow by Wojtkowski, he then held up the ball for Lopez to arrive and the forward thumped the ball into the keepers bottom right hand corner. Still the crowd sang. You would not know anything had happened. Great strike though.

Cue, Poznan onslaught. The blues came forward in waves. Unfortunately for the hosts they came up against Buchalik, the Wisla keeper was incredible. Shot after shot was held, blocked or pushed away. The ‘Kolejorz’ must have wondered what they had to do.

After the break the same service was resumed by Mr Buchalik as he kept the hosts at bay, even when he was out of position following a save, Poznan were wasteful, Rakels missing a glorious chance. Ten minutes to go he missed again, this time heading over from close range. Finally with 2 minutes to go Poznan had the ball in the net, a corner played in fell to substitute Radut, he swung a leg and the ball bobbled in, the place erupted, however, the assistant had his flag up. No goal!

As the clock turned to 90 minutes, the ultras let off fire crackers and the air was filled with smoke. As the smoke was still lingering one final attack was launched and this time Poznan scored. This time Poznan were not to be denied. This time the score was 1-1. A cross fell for Jevtic. His finish on the half-volley from 13 yards out was perfect. The whistle went moments later. Lech Poznan should have won. Easily.

Pre-Match

Alarm set for 3am. No wonder I had the 1903 lounge at Manchester Airport to myself for most of my stay.

For the first time in my life I used Ryanair. To be fair, you get exactly what you pay for. A no-frills airline service. More than happy to use them again. Once in Gdansk, bags dropped at my base, I was off to Poznan on the train, First class. What an experience that was. An old carriage from decades ago had 6 of us in an single compartment, with a corridor outside, as we passed through the Polish countryside I felt like I was in the middle of an Agatha Christie saga.

Booked in to the Hotel DeSilva Premium, good quality for £40 per might for a huge double room, I set off for the match in a taxi. Easy enough.

Post Match

I decided to walk. Took about an hour, which most of it was passed wtching trams come past me every couple of minutes or so. Rammed. Every one with a Police Escort. Back at my hotel I was asleep in no time at all. Tomorrow was another long day.

FACTS

Games: 431

Goals:  1468

Grounds: 204

Games since a 0-0: 44

Milestone: Total crowds now past 300,000

Random Fact: My 75th all-time draw

SOUNDTRACK

Fat of the Land – Prodigy