When Legia were knocked out of the last 32 of the Europa League last Thursday, it marked the end of Polish clubs’ participation in European club competitions for the season. It’s been a long ride, but now it’s over Rightbankwarsaw welcomes you to a short look back at the successes and failures of the country’s sides over the last 7 months or so, and gives every club a mark (in line with the Polish academic system) out of five. For those not in the know Polish grading goes as follows:
4.5 – Good plus
4 – Good
3.5 – Satisfactory plus
3 – Satisfactory
2 – Fail
So read on to find out who failed and who passed:
Zawisza Bydgoszcz – 3 – Could do better
Zawisza’s first ever European adventure ended almost as quickly as it began. Drawn in the Europa league second qualifying round against the Jupiler league side Zulte Waregem, Zawisza got a creditable result in the first leg, losing 2-1 in Belgium, but couldn’t cope in the return leg, going down to a 3-1 defeat. Nothing much was expected of Zawisza in Europe, especially after their tough draw, so they get awarded a bare pass for that decent result in Belgium.
Lech Poznań – 2 – Similar mistakes can not be made in the future
Lech started in the same qualifying round of the Europa League as Zawisza but expectation levels for the club from Poznań were an awful lot higher. Drawn against the Estonian side Nõmme Kalju, they fell to a disappointing 1-0 first leg defeat only to come away with a nervy 3-0 win in the second leg. Lech’s European adventure however came to an ignominious end in the next round when they were dumped out of the cup 2-1 on aggregate by Icelandic part-timers Stjarnan F.C. Stjarnan went on to play Inter Milan, Lech retreated to a corner to lick their wounds.
Ruch Chorzów – 4.5 – a sterling effort
Ruch entered at the same stage as both Zawisza and Lech. Most observers believed the Upper Silesian side would be defeated at the first hurdle against the Lichtenstein side FC Vaduz, who play in the Swiss Super league. Ruch, then managed by current Pogoń Szczecin boss Jan Kocian, made it past Vaduz and then surprisingly dispatched Denmark’s Esbjerg fB. By reaching the final Europa League qualifying round Ruch had already exceeded expectations, unfortunately their European campaign finally ended after an extra-time defeat to Ukrainian club Metalist Kharkiv. Their spirited play however won them many plaudits, although this success hurt their league form – something which eventually led to the somewhat unfair sacking of Kocian in early October.
Legia Warsaw – 5 – excellent work with a poor conclusion
The story of Polish football in Europe this season was really the story of Legia. Starting out slowly against St. Patrick’s Athletic in the second qualifying round of the Champion’s League, Legia ran away with the second leg in Ireland for a comfortable 6-1 aggregate victory. The controversy started in the next round when the side from the Polish capital took on Scottish champions Celtic – in both legs Legia tore Celtic apart playing some terrific open attacking football. Unfortunately Legia brought on an ineligible player, Bartosz Bereszyński, towards the end of the second leg, a mistake which saw them kicked out of the competition and relegated to the last qualifying round of the Europa league. UEFA’s decision sparked the famous (or infamous depending on your perspective) #Letfootballwin media campaign to get Legia reinstated.
Despite the eventual failure of this campaign, Legia picked themselves up and dispatched Kazakh side FK Aktobe with ease to make the Europa League group stages. This stage of the competition was a triumph for Legia as they professionally swept all before them to top their group, garnering an impressive 15 points in the process. Drawn against Ajax in the round of 32 Legia produced a good performance in Amsterdam and were unlucky not to get a crucial away goal. In the return leg in Warsaw, the Polish champions conceded two early goals and the rest of the game was a formality for the famous visitors. A great campaign had unfortunately petered out.
Overall grade – 4 – good on the whole but some areas of weakness
While Lech’s performance in Europe really let Poland down, Legia’s exploits at times were exhilarating and deserved a better end than they eventually received. When you add Ruch’s exciting attempt to make the Europa League group stages, Polish clubs’ performances this season were relatively good on the whole. Next year Lech really need to make the Europa League groups, and maybe, just maybe Legia might be able to go one better and make the Champions League at last. However if there’s one thing Polish fans have learnt, it’s better not to put too much faith in this happening.