I had to write something after watching Vladimir Dvalishvili’s full-debut in a Legia Warsaw shirt. For Polonia fans it’s a pretty tough one to take seeing your team’s most talented striker now playing for your deadliest rivals. That unfortunately was what we had the (dis)pleasure of witnessing tonight as Legia took on Olimpia Grudziądz in the first leg of the Polish Cup quarter-finals.
As I turned on the television to take in the match I experienced the usual emotions when your favourite player has just departed for pastures new; principally disappointment, regret and excitement. I was disappointed that Lado now plays for someone else and won’t be able to do the things he did when he was at K6, I regretted that we weren’t able to keep him and finally I was interested (and a little bit excited) to see whether he could recreate the kind of form that made me appreciate his talents so unreservedly.
Legia and Dvalishvili started the game slowly and Olimpia, sitting 7th in the Polish I liga, came more and more into the match as the first-half progressed. The I liga side defended deep and aimed to hit Legia on the counter-attack. This tactic restricted the Warsaw side to several half-chances and in the 35th minute Olimpia scored on the break via their striker Piotr Ruszkul. As the first-half came to a close Legia looked more and more frustrated and Olimpia took a 1-0 lead into the break. Dvalishvili had battled gainly up front but the side from Grudziądz had found a way to keep him quiet.
The second half was an altogether different story and Lado showed all the things that had made him a fan’s favourite at Polonia. He held the ball up well, played other players in, worked in tandem with Legia’s second striker Marek Saganowski and generally provided a nuisance for the Olimpia defence. In the 52nd minute it was his turn and neat cross that Saganowski finished to equalise for Legia and in injury time his clever turn and shot made the final score 4-1 to the wojskowi after Jędrzejczyk and Saganowski had added the second and third.
Now, I should have been pretty down-in-the-dumps after watching all of this. Lado’s performance underlined how badly Polonia will miss him in the spring round of games. Strikers with his kind of awareness are thin on the ground in Poland and Polonia’s Daniel Gołębiewski just does not possess the ability to do what Dvalishvili does. However whilst it was heart-breaking to see him play so well tonight, the overwhelming emotion I felt was admiration. Lado showed in the match with Olimpia that he is a consummate professional who provides a consistently high level of performance. It’s just very difficult not to like the guy. Of course this may all change if and when he scores the winning goal in the Warsaw derby at the end of March but at the moment (I know I shouldn’t) but I have a lot of respect for Vladimir Dvalishvili. I feel he may well be the difference in bringing the championship back to Ł3 after an absence of seven years. I hope, of course, that I am wrong.