Polska Piłka: Let’s get the spring started in Ekstraliga

Polska Pilka, Poland Ekstraliga column image

This weekend will see the return of the Ekstraliga, Poland’s top-tier football league. With the competition at its halfway point, and after quite a calm transfer window, the battle for the championship is getting as warm as the weather.

Well, maybe we need to wait a little bit for the warm weather, but you can feel the heat arise in the top of the Ekstraliga ranking.

A fighting way back

With surprising defeats against AP Lotos Gdańsk and AZS UJ Kraków, TME SMS Łódź has finished the autumn in second, two points behind Górnik Łęczna. With a help of Macleans Chinonyerem, the league’s top scorer with 13 goals this season, the team who fell from the throne last season is on its way back.

It wasn’t the only thorn in the side for the team of Łódź. The biggest upset of the transfer window was left-back Daria Kurzawa leaving the captain band of SMS to join the team which stood between them and both league and cup trophies last year.

Czarni Sosnowiec are just one point behind Łódź, three behind Łęczna, and now have strong enforcements in their defence.

As the team of Łódź needs to seek a substitution among their youngsters, Czarni can easily move Martyna Wiankowska forward — she’s a left-back too, but her offensive skills are very helpful in both midfield and the goalscoring. All in all, with nine goals, she is the top scorer of the team this season and the second top scorer in the whole league.

Further down the table

The autumn was a disappointment for Medyk Konin — the club which is an icon for women’s Polish football is based on foreign players mostly this season. This included Dominika Koleničková — her adventure with Konin however, was a short and not very successful one. After half a season, she moved to Cyprus, joining Apollon Ladies.

But besides the players from different parts of the world, including USA, Slovakia, Greece, or even more exotically, El Salvador and Latvia, the strongest player is still Anna Gawrońska. With her 43rd birthday coming up in just three weeks, she’s still the support for the team both on and off the pitch.

It isn’t, however enough to fight for the trophies so far and the team hasn’t won a trophy since 2003. Taking sixth place is not only behind the top three, but also behind GKS Katowice and AZS UJ Kraków.

GKS saw the role of a supplier of the youngster to the national team with Zofia Buszewska and Kinga Kozak in 2020/21 season (both now joined their local rival of Czarni Sosnowiec) as well as Klaudia Maciążka, the team’s top scorer.

Now most of the national team debutants and also many junior national team players come from AZS UJ Kraków. This sees not only an experienced goalkeeper in Karolina Klabis (the time of her injury was a down for Kraków in autumn, still she was number one between the national team’s posts with Karolina Kiedrzynek recovering from her broken finger), but also Karolina Gec (with the equalising goal in the debut against Kosovo), Anna Zapała (the shining point of the Polish defence at the Pinatar Cup) or Weronika Wójcik (a debutant call up this February).

Kraków is just one point ahead of Konin in Ekstraliga and only two ahead of the two teams opening the second half of the league table. Sportis KKP Bydgoszcz and AP Lotos Gdańsk are both on a similar road — always ready to make a surprise, with a strong marketing background and a long-term planning in the women’s football instead of a will to get the top results here and now. That background is also strong in Śląsk Wrocław.

The team was a huge success in autumn of 2020, with a little bit of disappointment in the spring after the formally unsuccesful loan of Wiktoria Kiszkis — a youngster raised in the Arsenal Academy, having played for West Ham United. But this cannot be an excuse for a poor start of 2021/22 season. Not only Kiszkis, but also Joanna Wróblewska or Karolina Iwaśko didn’t manage to fulfill the fans expectations and are now in the lower half of the table, with a hard calendar as they play all the top teams in the first rounds of the spring leg.

Relegation battle

Just above the Ekstraliga’s relegation zone there’s Tarnovia. The debutant in the Ekstraliga was dealt sudden news from the club’s executive who announced the team won’t start in the autumn. As it seemed the team will be successfully sabotaged by the club in a way which cannot be understand (with no support of the club’s board and no transfers after going up from the second tier) the players managed to finish the autumn in 10th place.

So far the situation seems to have calmed down and Tarnovia is going to play in the spring as well, while there are talks about the team’s future, including gossip about selling the licence for Ekstraliga, in case of keeping the place, to another club.

The relegation is close, however, with just one point of loss to Tarnovia by Olimpia Szczecin. The team which is a hard rival for everyone, especially the top teams of the league, resisting to the favourites and making the games exciting. In the end, it’s never seen in the result as Olimpia has seven defeats in 11 games. The table is closed by another debutant, Rekord Bielsko-Biała.

With just one victory (4-2 against Olimpia), they will be seen as a farewell candidate, but still with slight chances to move up to the top ten.

The league will resume this weekend and will conclude at the beginning of June.

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