After six months of waiting finally a proper derby day again. After 25 years the Poznan Derby returns. Despite the fact it is a friendly rivalry, my expectations are high. It is all about the pride of the city. Add the fanaticism of the Polish ultras and you have the right ingredients for a decent derby. Even during the crazy times we live in today.
The unknown neighbor
For those who follow Polish football, Warta Poznan will be known to them. I have heard of them, but mainly because of their old stadium, Stadion im Edmund Szyca. The ground which was filled with 60.000 football fans in 1972 for a Lech Poznan match and was used for several matches of the Polish national team in the eighties.
Warta is the oldest club in Poznan. They are founded in 1912, ten years earlier than Lech. The club was able to be succesful in the following decades. The first national Championship was won in 1929. Just after the Second World War they did it again in 1947. They were runner up five times. After a couple of difficult seasons they relegated in 1950. Since then the club went back and forth between the first and second division.
They had to wait until 1993 to promote to the highest division again. Warta becomes Champions of Liga II (now Liga I). The return of the Poznan Derby after 30 years. In the 1960 season, the last derby was played in Liga II. Lech won both editions with 1-0. The return of Warta was not a success. Already after two seasons they relegated again.
Derby has its own rules
On May 14th 1995, the last derby before the 2020 edition, there was everything to play for. Lech was battling for the top positions, which meant qualifying for European football. Warta on the other hand was fighting relegation. But the derby has its own laws. Warta surprisingly beats Lech 1-2, which was a knock-out punch for the Blue and White. They finished 6th eventually and no qualification.
Despite the victory, Warta wasn’t able to properly follow up. Relegation became real a month later. But the drama did not end there. The next season they relegated again. Difficult years with a lot of financial problems followed. It was so bad, the club didn’t receive a license to play in Liga II in 2014. But their new investor seems to be the rescuer. Because of a couple of successful play-off rounds, the club promoted three times in recent years returning in Ekstraklasa this season.
The fact that it is a friendly rivalry becomes clear before the match. Supporters from both sides walk alongside each other towards the stadium. Some wear scarves of both clubs. The away fans are with very low numbers. If it is because of Corona or that they usually bring small numbers is unclear to me.
Approximately 22.000 fans will be inside the stadium today. That is around 50% of the stadiums’ capacity, the maximum allowed in these days. What the benefit is of these limitations is unclear. The ultras are with thousands close together, singing and jumping as you expect them to do for 90 minutes straight. Apparently the Polish government is not happy with it, but tolerates it for weeks now. No need to adjust the regulations so it seems? At least a proper derby atmosphere today!
Poor Poznan Derby
At the start of the match a nice display with pyro from the Poznan ultras. Oh I have missed this! Unfortunately this is the highlight of the Poznan Derby. The players don’t have it today. Poor football, not much excitement. I am actually getting bored. Polish people around me share my frustration. The passion of the ultras behind the goal are making up for it.
The away fans are difficult to find inside the stadium. They are not separated in the away section, but mingled within the home crowd. If you look closely, some green and white can bee spotted. Lech is the better team today, but hardly get any chances. Warta barely comes across the middle line. Just before halftime Lech finally finds a gap. With a magnificent chip they finish a great play. Unfortunately the striker is called offside after consulting the VAR.
The second half is even worse. Lech has difficulty with the defensive mode of Warta. The visitors are closer finding the net. A header 10 minutes before the final whistle narrowly gets saved. The fans slowly start leaving the stadium. They don’t believe Lech will score a late winner. But a shot outside the box gets blocked by an arm. Penalty, says the ref! The goalkeeper gets close, but the goal is there. Despite the bad football, Lech takes the victory in this Poznan Derby.