Jagiellonia Białystok 1-0 Polonia Warszawa

Andrzej Gomołysek believes the Polish league leaders need to start showing their quality more often if they are to go on and win the championship…

Want to know how the minnows from Białystok are doing so well in the Ekstraklasa this season? The answer is simple – they play really good football, really well. And after beating sixth-placed Polonia in round 11, they stay two points clear at the top of the table.

Both teams started this game with just the one striker, and an overriding focus on controlling the midfield. Polonia went with a 4-4-1-1 formagtion, young Polish international Artur Sobiech floating behind the more experienced Ebi Smolarek.

Jagiellonia went with a ‘flat’ 4-5-1, using Kamil Grosicki as a main striker, and former Polonia man Jarosław Lato surprisingly placed nearest to him by 38-year-old tactician Michał Probierz.

But their tactically disciplined opponents rendered the Jagiellonia system futile – doubling and tripling up on them in key areas. Combined with a generally lacklustre performance by the home side, Polonia had it easy.

The visitors set their close banks together from about 30 metres up the pitch: thus shrinking Jagiellonia’s attacking zone and making it nigh-on impossible to pass the ball in the killer zones.

Despite the fact that Jagiellonia was constantly moving forward, all their attacks came to the same conclusion – Tomasz Kupisz or, more commonly, Maciej Makuszewski, trying to run at the defence, only to be escorted to touch.

Jagiellonia showed flashes of some slick passing moves (Rafał Grzyb at the heart of them all), but such moments were few and far between in the first half.

As for Polonia, the home side’s centre-backs did a decent job on Smolarek or Sobiech, easily nullifying their potential threat.

The game inevitably opened up as the half progressed, yet both sides were rigorously sticking to their defensive duties all over the pitch. Frustration at the stream of dead-ends began to set in, and crosses and passes were lazily directed nowhere in particular.

In the second half, Polonia managed to build a tiny advantage by pushing the full-backs forward and taking the game to their hosts.

Michał Pobierz reacted by amending personnel rather than tactics, on coming club captain Tomasz Frankowski. Kupisz was moved out to the left wing, Grosicki taking the right, but shifting from time to time with the centrally placed Burkhardt.

Frankowski took Grosicki’s place as line-leader, and scored the winning goal after a mistake amongst the Polonia defence.

Polonia coach Paweł Janas made two changes after his side fell behind, although stood by the 4-4-1-1 formation. However, it was too little, too late from the former national team coach.

The game was a dull affair, but the clinicality inherent in the Jagiellonia ranks epitomises why they are worthy league leaders. They’re a much better team though than they showed against Polonia, and will have to show that more often if they’re serious about winning the title.

Andrzej is the co-editor of Polish football site Taktycznie.

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