Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Cup final opposed the losers of the championship: Benfica vs FC Porto. Bronze vs silver, both teams ambitious to win a trophy. As often is the case between equal rivals, the final was tight and won minimally by Benfica 1-0.

FC Porto ended well the season – second in both championship and cup tournament. But second is not first... they lost twice minimally. A good team, but not great and perhaps not polished yet. But FC Porto established firmly itself among the very best Portuguese clubs and clearly was going to be a constant factor.

Benfica won the Cup and thus saved the season, but they fooled no one: the team was not so great, it needed new and better players, if Benfica wanted to live up to its reputation. At the moment, they were losing steam in Portugal and were not a leading club on European scale. As a whole, Benfica, FC Porto, and Lisbon shared the same problem – very few stars. Portugal needed a new strong generation of players and so far there were none.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Monday, September 21, 2015

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Hungary II division. A mixed bag of winners.
Declining Csepel (Budapest) was still too good for second division and won promotion quickly. The team was not too bad actually – Hajdu, for instance, was still national team material. But the glory years were long gone, never to return. Still, it seemed that the proper place of Csepel was in the top league.
Kaposvari Rakoczi – one more attempt to establish itself among the best Hungarian clubs. Unlike Csepel, it was more than doubtful they will succeed.
The third club winning promotion was different – NYVSSC never played first division before.
As many Hungarian clubs, the name is hidden behind convenient abbreviation, for it was long and difficult, but just as often it was known in another version – just the name of the home city Nyiregyhaza. The club was founded in 1928 and went into several name changes between 1944 and 1955. The changes were not over, though – in 1977 the club merged with the other club of the same city, Nyiregyhazi Spartacus Petofi, becoming Nyiregyhazi Vasutas-Spartacus Sportclub. Hence, NYVSSC. One long and difficult to chant version; the other – difficult to pronounce, so it was sufficient just to call it Nyiregyhaza.

Third row, from left: Temesvári Miklós vezetőedző, Bakos Béla gyúró, Szekrényes, Gáspár, Ambrusz, Szűcs, Nagy Lajos technikai vezető,Arany László palyaedző.
Middle row: Buús, Moldván, Cséke, Kiss, Mayer
Sitting: Lukács, Polyák, Kozma, Czeczeli, Turtóczky.
The newest incarnation proved the most successful in the club's history, winning the very first promotion. Like Kaposvar, the squad was nothing to speak of and the club was not expected to last among the best. Then again, who could tell in advance.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Monday, September 7, 2015

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

 Slavia did not end empty-handed. They reached the Cup final. Beroe (Stara Zagora) was the other finalist – Beroe was playing their 4th Cup final and their second in a row. No other provincial club was so successful, but so far Beroe lost every final they played. No different this year – they lost 1-3. Here, of course, another dark speculation rises: provincial clubs were routinely 'robbed' of trophies. Slavia was robbed from the title and given the Cup as a remedy. Easy thinking, lacking evidence. Slavia won quite easily the final and Beroe made a record: they lost a Cup final for a forth time! Yet, it was good year for Beroe – they finished 4th in the championship and reached the Cup final.  
 Happy and not so happy Cup winners – Slavia won their 6th Cup, but not their 6th title this year. Their first trophy since 1975 – thanks to the same generation of players, which established them as one of the greatest squads of the club ever.  
 Sitting from left: Pavlin Dimitrov, Botyo Malinov, Vanyo Kostov, Tchavdar Tzvetkov, Georgy Minchev, Milcho Evtimov, Ilyaz Aliev.
Middle: Trendafil Terziisky – conditioning coach, Vasko Shalamanov, Ivan Khaydarliev, Svetoslav Georgiev, Christo Mladenov – coach, Atanas Aleksandrov, Georgy Dermendzhiev, Ivan Chakarov, Simeon Simeonov – assistant coach.
Top row: Stoycho Stefanov, Ivan Iliev, Iliya Velichkov, Andrey Zhelyazkov – captain, Petar Miladinov, Georgy Gugalov.
Very strong squad, lead by one of the best Bulgarian coaches in the 1970s – Christo Mladenov mastered the excellent Beroe team of the late-60s – early-70s and  lead Bulgaria to the 1974 World Cup finals. Plenty of experience and talent. He had 7 current national team players at his disposal, established as top players for years. Slavia had lethal strikers: Alerksandrov-Zhelyazkov-Tzvetkov were arguably the best attacking line during the 1970s in the country. What Slavia lacked was well rounded first  eleven: there was always a missing piece for one or another reason. This year the missing piece was found: Botyo Malinov was never a great player, he played little and left no memories at his original club, Levski-Spartak, but fitted perfectly to Slavia's midfield – where the weak point was. With Malinov, Slavia finally achieved balanced starting eleven (the real gap was in the middle of defense – the arrival of Malinov solved the problem by moving the defensive midfielder Kostov back as a center-defender). Everything clicked right and Slavia had fantastic season – to the point it had to be prevented from winning the title by 'other means'. Robbed or not, Slavia did not compare well with CSKA – it was a thin team: hardly any strong player behind the regulars. Older stars than CSKA's too – the starters played together more or less since 1973, few were already beyond their peak (Aleksandrov, Minchev, Gugalov, Chakarov, Evtimov), others proved to have smaller talent than hoped for (Velichkov, Stefanov), and the only really promising younger additions were Khaydarliev and Aliev. Nobody was nearing retirement yet, but key players were getting older nevertheless – Zhelyazkov, Kostov, Tzvetkov. The clock was ticking against this team – and it was now or never for them. Unfortunately, it was 'never'. May be they were robbed, but it was short squad getting old and fragile – a single injury was able to destroy it, for the reserves were not even remotely close to the regulars (this eventually happened a year later when Malinov  got hepatitis). The golden generation of Slavia unfortunately achieved only 2 cups.