Wisla Krakow emerged triumphant after a closely-fought battle with Legia Warsaw.
By Dariusz Kurowski in Warsaw
Wisla Krakow retained their league crown on the last day of the season but, while the competition at both ends of the table was extremely even, it would be hard to call it a fascinating campaign.
It was no surprise that Wisla and last year’s runners-up Legia Warsaw once again battled it out for the title, but this time they were both pushed all the way by Lech Poznan, who did well in the transfer market last summer – bringing in Colombian defender Manuel Arboleda, Bosnia midfielder Semir Stilic and Poland striker Robert Lewandowski – and eventually finished third. They also won the Polish Cup, beating Ruch Chorzow 1-0 in the Final, yet despite this coach Franciszek Smuda left at the end of the season.
Wisla had put themselves in the driving seat when they won 1-0 at home to Legia with three games to play. They then secured their 12th championship by beating LKS Lodz 4-0, Lechia Gdansk 4-2 and Slask Wroclaw 2-0 at home on the final day.
“This is one of the best days of my life,” said midfielder Marek Zienczuk, the scorer of Wisla’s second goal against Slask, who is leaving in the summer to join Greek side Skoda Xanthi. “I scored a goal, set up another and we won the title.”
Wisla now enter the second qualifying round of the Champions League, while Legia and Lech will appear in the Europa League along with Polonia Warsaw, who finished fourth and were the best side in the first half of the campaign.
Polonia’s owner, building contractor millionaire Jozef Wojciechowski, bought his club’s place in the top flight last year when he purchased Groclin Dyskobolia Grodzisk and their place in the Ekstraklasa for about £5million. But after a bright start, Wojciechowski sacked coach Jacek Zielinski after two defeats and then dismissed successor Boguslaw Kaczmarek, who had a league record of four games, three wins and one draw. The controversial owner’s decisions did little to settle the side and Polonia ended up losing their title chance.
Down at the bottom, 10 teams were involved in a relegation battle that ended with Gornik Zabrze (champions 14 times) and Cracovia Krakow (winners of the first championship in 1921) going down. Gornik’s demotion was the biggest surprise as the club, who are backed by a huge insurance company, had ambitions of getting into Europe this season. Angry supporters, who felt the team had let them down, invaded one training session and forced the players to wear shirts with the inscription: “With our club emblem on your heart you must haul ass.”
After relegation, Gornik coach Henryk Kasperczak admitted “I take the full responsibility for the team results”, while Cracovia owner Janusz Filipiak had already warned his players in April: “If you go down, all of you will stay in the club to help in getting promotion next season.”