Opening Day Defeat
The Dragoons kicked off their league campaign with a trip to Sparta Skrzeszowice. The wet weather lifted just before kick off to make ideal playing conditions for both sides.
With plenty of new signings to choose from, Head Coach Hugo Cruz made four changes to the side that lost in the third round of the Puchar Polski against Fairant.
Kuba Drobny and debutant Sasha Arshakian came into the central defensive positions, replacing Brian Lemmen and Michael Lamb. Szymon Urzędowski continued at right back with Salah Missi returning from injury to play on the left.
Mark Szczesnowicz returned to the first team anchoring the midfield with Emre Çolakoğlu and Corneille Malonga ahead of him. Rob Smits also returned to the side at the tip of the diamond as the Expats changed their formation.
Yuri Samyonov and Rohit Chandran started in attack as Błażej Święcicki and Martin Voženílek dropped out of the side.
Prior to the game, the fired up hosts gave a war cry to announce their intentions. Sparta came out the blocks rapidly and forced an early corner. A quickly taken set-piece saw the ball floated in the box and Sebastian Hanek blasted a volley over the target.
The hosts continued to press the Expats and forced an error in the backline to win a second corner after 3 minutes. The Dragoons cleared their lines however, and went straight down the other end on the counter attack.
Dragoons Strike the Woodwork
Rohit Chandran took control of the ball on the edge of his box and played it into the feet of Samyonov just inside the Expats half. The Israeli played a crossfield pass to find Çolakoğlu in space on the right side of the pitch. The Turkish man-mountain laid a forward pass to Smits on the flank, who crossed first time into the box. Smits’ pass found Samyonov free in the area, with the forward striking a first time shot at goal. The bobbled attempt beat Andrei Labudzeu all ends up, but smacked the crossbar and went out for a throw.
7 minutes into the game, Sparta’s Krystian Nowak showed dog-like aggression to close the Expats down in their own half. His hard work caused the Dragoons to make a mistake with Nowak hanging a cross into the box. The ball fell to Krzysztian Goldman at the back-post, whose incoming shot came off Arshakian and out for a corner.
The following corner saw the Dragoons half clear the ball, but it came straight back at them. Sparta continued to press forward, with a foul from the Dragoons giving the hosts a free-kick in shooting range. Nowak stood over the ball, but sent his effort over the Dragoons goal.
Sparta Score First
Into the 13th minute, a foul on the edge of the box gave Sparta another shooting opportunity. Dawid Jeleń stepped up on this occasion and fired a curling effort past a terrible Dragoons defensive wall and into the net for 1-0. A deserved goal for the hosts that had started the game far brighter than the Expats.
Following the goal, the Dragoons looked to immediately get back into the game. Neat passing football saw Chandran release a pass to Missi out wide. The Algerian cut inside onto his right foot and blasted an effort high over the bar from range.
The Dragoons looked to have settled down and looked to impose their passing style on the game. Despite finding themselves in good positions, a lack of the final pass allowed the home side breathing space.
Dragoons Fall Two Behind
On 22 minutes, the Expats found themselves two goals behind with another set piece causing havoc. On this occasion, a free-kick from inside Sparta’s own half came towards the Dragoons back post. Nowak lost his marker to head across goal and Daniil Kupriienko found himself alone to nod the ball into the net.
Moments after, Nowak came off the wing to burst through the middle of the park for the hosts. The winger escaped the attentions of the Dragoons defence, but his low drive went wide of the goal.
From the resulting goal-kick, the Dragoons worked the ball into the Sparta half and won a corner of their own. Rohit Chandran swung the ball into the box with Kuba Drobny rising highest. The Dragoons defender got a firm head to the ball, but could not direct his effort on target.
Midway through the first half, the Dragoons started to see more of the possession. A foul on Corneille Malonga gave the Expats a shooting opportunity 25 metres from goal. Çolakoğlu took the shot, but saw his effort comfortably land into the arms of Andrei Labudzeu.
The Woodwork Denies the Dragoons Again
On 35 minutes, the Dragoons produced a great opportunity to reduce the deficit. Malonga sent a searching cross into the box, but could not find a Dragoons shirt. Smits ran onto the loose ball and passed back to the advanced Missi. The Algerian played a nice one-two with Chandran to find himself in the box with just Labudzeu to beat. Missi hit the ball high and saw his shot spank the crossbar and come back into play from off the post. Sparta’s attempt to clear the danger saw the ball headed into the air. It fell kindly to Samyonov, who volleyed first time, and once again the ball struck the woodwork.
With the Dragoons pushing forward in search of a goal back, they left themselves vulnerable at the back. In the 41st minute, a swift counter saw Nowak scythed down by Arshakian earning himself a yellow card in exactly the same position as the first goal. Dawid Jeleń could not repeat his previous heroics however, blasting a low free-kick against the wall and out for a corner. The following corner came towards the far post, with an unmarked Goldman heading over the bar.
The Dragoons had the final chance of an end to end half. Labudzeu’s poor throw saw Yuri Samyonov regain possession high up the field. Nice combination play with Smits saw the Israeli pull the ball back to Çolakoğlu on the edge of the box. The midfielder dropped a shoulder and unleashed a shot at goal, which Labudzeu got down to stop with ease.
Shortly afterwards, the half time whistle blew with the Dragoons 2-0 down with two set pieces proving to be the Expats undoing. The Dragoons had played some nice football, but had failed to take their chances when they had come their way.
The Expats made one change at half time with Francesco Leuci entering the game for Szymon Urzędowski.
Worst Start Possible
Just two minutes into the second half, the Dragoons got off to the worst possible start. Goldman drove forward into the Expats penalty box and went down under pressure from Missi. The referee immediately pointed to the spot to send Hugo Cruz’s half time team talk out of the window. Mikołaj Morański took the resulting spot kick and passed the ball into the net to bring the score to 3-0.
With the Dragoons left with a mountain to climb, they looked to instantly get back into the game. A cross into the Sparta box saw Samyonov recycle possession and pass to Missi. The Algerian passed an opponent, but his following low drive failed to seriously trouble Labudzeu in the Sparta goal.
Dragoons Push Forward
Two minutes later in the 49th minute, a quickly taken free-kick from Çolakoğlu saw Missi shoot again. The left-back cut back inside to his right foot and on this occasion forced Labudzeu into a good one handed stop. Unfortunately, the Dragoons could not get to the second ball first and Sparta cleared the danger away.
A good spell of football saw the Dragoons gifted a glorious chance to score. Mark Szczesnowicz sent a long range shot at goal, but failed to get the connection on the ball to trouble Labudzeu. The Sparta keeper then inexplicably picked up the ball a second time to give the Expats an indirect free-kick 6 metres out. Rob Smits touched the ball into Çolakoğlu, who blasted at goal, only for brave defending to block the chance away.
Into the 63rd minute, the omnipresent Çolakoğlu found his progress in the box halted by a foul. Once again the referee pointed to the spot to give the Dragoons a way back into the game. Rob Smits took the penalty and smashed the ball into the corner of the net past Labudzeu to bring the score to 3-1.
Straight after the goal, the Dragoons made a double change with Malonga and Saymonov making way for Alessio Sassini and Ayoub Chardal.
On 68 minutes, Sparta made a couple of chances for themselves but failed to trouble the target. A minute later, a long ball forward saw Sparta substitute Tomasz Wójcik get past Arshakian. Wójcik shot low, bringing out a good low save from Muñoz in the Dragoons goal.
With 15 minutes left to play, only a flying save from the Sparta goalkeeper denied the Dragoons a second goal. Ayoub Chardal passed the ball forward to Smits, whose attempted forward pass ricocheted off of a defender back to Chardal. The Moroccan midfield showed a sublime touch to bamboozle a defender before launching an effort at goal. The ball arched towards the corner of the net only for Labudzeu to push it wide with an outstretched hand.
The Dragoons continued to press forward in search of a second goal. A superb deep cross from Szczesnowicz found Smits free at the far post. The Dutchmeester took a touch with his knee and struck a vicious shot from a tight angle. Labudzeu proved equal to the effort however, showing strong hands to keep the ball out of the goal.
From the following corner, the Expats played it short, with Çolakoğlu passing to Drobny outside the box. The defender hit a gorgeous curling effort that looked destined for the top corner, only for Labudzeu to fly to his left and tip the ball over the bar. A fantastic save from the Sparta stopper to deny the Dragoons a way back into the game.
Time Running Out
With ten minutes left to play, Chandran played Sassini into the box. The Italian assassin drilled a first time effort at goal, but hit the ball straight at Labudzeu to save.
As the clock ticked down, the Expats relentlessly pushed forward. A quick free-kick by Chardal saw Smits release Sassini into the box. The Italian forward worked a shot at goal, but slipped during the process and the ball dropped comfortably into the arms of Labudzeu.
The last chance of the half came for the Dragoons. Chardal stood over a free-kick and elected to pass to Missi on the edge of the box. The Algerian got under the ball however, and ballooned his effort over the crossbar.
Injury time passed without incident as time ran out for the Dragoons. The final whistle sounded as the Expats fell to a disappointing 3-1 defeat.
The opening 15 minutes of the game would ultimately cost the Dragoons dear. A poor defensive wall and inability to pick up markers saw the Expats leaving themselves with it all to do.
Despite the Expats hitting the woodwork three times, they struggled to keep territory in the final third. Although the Expats had the better of the ball, more often than not it was in their own half.
Into the second half, the boys slowly but surely ground Sparta down and began to get the ball in dangerous areas. Unfortunately, an inspired goalkeeping performance stopped the Expats from making the game look closer.
Going into their next fixture, the Dragoons need to find a way to keep the ball better in the opposition’s half and find a way to break down sides that like to defend deep, as well as being deadlier in front of goal when the opportunity arises.
In their first three games so far this season, the Expats have only scored once from open play and that was an own goal. With more players to return to the side, surely it’s a matter of time before things start to click for the Expats.
The Dragoons have a second away trip on the trot next Sunday as they face off against Juvenia Prandocin. The Expats recently beat their opponents in the second round of the Puchar Polski in early August with a Rob Smits penalty and an own goal seeing the Dragoons progress with a 2-1 victory.
Formed in 1946, Juvenia have bounced around Klasa A and B for the past 20 years. They finished last season in a comfortable 8th position and lost their opening game 4-0 against Wanda Nowa Huta.