Although many national leagues are still playing at the final weekend before the national teams’ window, we have a break in Poland.
Four legs of the away round are already behind us and they’ve lead to some major changes in the Ekstraliga standings.
Górnik Łęczna started the spring with a two-point lead over TME SMS Łódź. But now the champions of autumn are three points behind.
Górnik Łęczna’s 3-3 draw in Katowice, where no team so far could have win, and a 1-2 loss in Kraków might not be seen as big surprises, as these are the 4-5 placed teams in the league. But only a 1-0 victory over AP Lotos Gdańsk and a 3-2 over win against Olimpia Szczecin—both placed in the lower half of the standings—were not what the fans in Łęczna were expecting. Even with Macleans Chinonyerem heading for the top-scorer title (16 goals so far), it wasn’t enough for the triple Polish champion.
On the other side, TME SMS Łódź started the round with four victories, including a last-minute goal in a 3-2 victory in Wrocław in the first leg of March. They’ve become the leaders and the main favorite in the title race.
Czarni Sosnowiec are, however, the ones to be aware of, tightening the difference to just three points, with three victories and a goalless draw in Wrocław this month.
Behind the podium
GKS Katowice, with four victories and four draws this season at home, has a solid advantage in the battle for the fourth place. Although they started March with two 3-3 draws against Górnik Łęczna and Sportis KKP Bydgoszcz, their victory over AP Lotos Gdańsk was a small step forward comparing to the last weekend’s 2-1 win over AZS UJ Kraków. Afterwards, the university team fell from two to five points in a loss to the fourth placed GKS.
Their spring isn’t as bad as in the case of Medyk Konin. The team which used to be a top exporter of top Polish players, has become the top importer of foreign players and it appears not to be a good tactic. With the rising level in the middle of the stake, they’re losing more and more points in the games against the lower-ranked teams—including a 1-1 draw with Olimpia Szczecin and a 1-2 defeat to Tarnovia, which might be a key to keeping a place in the top-tier for the team debuting this season in Ekstraliga.
With a three point loss to AZS UJ, Medyk opens the part of the table where the next teams are one point behind each other – leading over Sportis KKP Bydgoszcz and AP Lotos Gdańsk. Both are struggling to get points in the matches with the top teams, but both consistent in the games against the rivals from behind the top three. Both are as well two long-term projects, aiming to successively go up in the national hierarchy. The direct battle was held last weekend in Gdańsk – the hosts won 2-0.
Down the table
Śląsk Wrocław opens the last four of the standings. As it was during the first rounds, the first legs are very hard for the team. After losses to Łódź and Konin, they had their game against Rekord Bielsko-Biała (the easiest rival in the first legs) postponed due to the rivals playing for the futsal league medals. The comeback with a 0-0 against Czarni Sosnowiec was quite a surprise, which keeps them in distance to the relegation zone.
Tarnovia also keeps the momentum going. After winning over Medyk Konin, a draw against fellow-debutants Rekord might be the key to stay in the top ten. However, Olimpia Szczecin is still the same unpredictable rival, able to take points away from the favorites (1-1 against Medyk), but also lose points being in that role (2-2 against Rekord).
After taking home the bronze medal in the futsal championships, Rekord is five points behind Olimpia, eight behind the safe tenth place, and not a lot arguments for staying in the Ekstraliga.
March also saw the Round of 16 of the Polish Cup take place. The teams of Ekstraliga who reached that phase were all favorites and fulfilled their duty.
Moving on to the quarterfinals, Ekstraliga teams joined by Stomilanki Olsztyn (the former team of Macleans Chinonyerem is a leader of second-tier – 1st League), Respekt Myślenice (2nd place so far in the third-tier 2nd League), and Pogoń II Tczew (the fifth-tier reserve team of the 5th placed club in the 1st League).
All three lower tier clubs will host the top clubs of Ekstraliga in the quarterfinals. Pogoń will be battling with Czarni Sosnowiec, Stomilanki with TME SMS Łódź, and Respekt with Medyk Konin. The sole all-top-tier quarterfinal will see Rekord Bielsko-Biała taking on Śląsk Wrocław.
The Polish Cup quarterfinal fixtures will take place on 27 April.