Lukas Hradecky represented by Leverkusen took a significant leap towards the German Bundesliga championship over the weekend. The team was in the top match against Bayern Munich in its own category and won 3–0 at the end of a great performance.
The difference in the series is now five points, with thirteen matches still to be played. Hradecky’s top saves were not even needed this time, in such a strong way Leverkusen stripped Bayern and the star striker Harry Kane of weapons.
– Very convincing. The change to the circus football of Leverkusen’s previous seasons is significant. The head coach Xabi Alonso in the lead, Leverkusen’s ability to adapt according to the opponent is top class. The role of dominance without the ball was highlighted at the weekend. Bayern was unarmed, Urheilu’s expert Antti Pohja says.
The field players themselves shone as the brightest stars in the match, but after the match Hradecky stole the show. He climbed into the stands as the captain to shout at the supporters.
– It’s incredibly important if you think about club culture. The contribution to the game is of course the number one thing, but Hradecky’s connection with both the fans and the media is very immediate and natural at the same time, says Pohja.
The sole emphasizes the added value that Hradecky brings with his personality to both Leverkusen and Huuhkaji off the field.
– You can’t write in the football club’s strategy that the captain smiles and claps with the fans and is their best friend. It is worth its weight in gold, not only for Leverkusen supporters and the club, but for everyone who loves football. It’s nice to see something like that. Football is not played just for three points, but the sport is meant to bring experiences.
True to his style, the most attentive heard Hradecky also shout something Finnish into the microphone. The fans in the stadium hardly noticed, in the euphoria of victory, but Hradecky’s words to the victory song were the original German version instead of “humpa, humpa, pereke”. Sekös is ecstatic on social media.
2) Joel Pohjanpalo is approaching the top of the goal market
Hradecky is a true cult hero in Leverkusen, but that’s also true Joel Pohjanpalo in Venice. The team captain scored twice on Saturday when Venezia beat Südtirol 3-0 in an away match.
The win lifted Venezia to within a point of Serie B’s second place and a direct promotion spot. Pohjanpalo has finished third in the goal exchange. The Finn has 11 goals, while Südtirol shares the top spot Daniel Casiraghi and Cremonese Massimo Coda 12 goals.
Pohjanpalo suffered from injuries when he was younger, but was still effective in the German Bundesliga, for example at Leverkusen and Union Berlin when he was healthy. A year and a half ago, the Venezia move caused astonishment, since it was not a European top league.
The example of Pohjanpalo shows that sometimes a step back can be the best solution. If Venezia succeeds in advancing to the main league, Finland can get another captain in Europe’s top leagues alongside Hradecky.
– Pohjanpalo has grown as a player himself and found his place in the club and in the city. When you get a position like that, which is already quite a cult figure, it fuels more desire to take responsibility and, on the other hand, self-confidence. Pohjanpalo knows his own importance and that solutions are expected of him, Pohja says.
Especially recently, solutions have really been seen. In the fall, Pohjanpalo suffered from a goalless streak and a minor injury, but now they have scored seven goals in the last six matches.
– Whenever we talk about choices, I emphasize that every player has to find his own way. Pohjanpalo has weighed all aspects of football and life and came to the conclusion that the role, responsibility and trust in Venezia are right, Pohja reflects.
– If he had gone to the Serie A team to fight for a league place, a similar big role would not necessarily have been directly available.
3) Finns’ European spring
The men’s Euro competition playoffs start on Tuesday. In the Nordics, all eyes are on FC Copenhagen, who will host Manchester City in the quarterfinals of the Champions League on Tuesday.
No Finnish players have been seen on the fields of the men’s Champions League this season. In the Women’s Champions League, however, the Finnish representation has been the largest in history. Sweden’s Häcken made it to the playoffs Katariina Kosola and the Norwegian Brann Joanna Tynnilä and Nanne Ruuskanen.
In the men’s lower levels, Hradecky and Sparta Prague, who play a big role in the midfield, are participating in the Europa League playoffs. Kairinen too. Union St. Gilloise from Belgium is represented in the playoffs of the conference league Casper Terho.
– There have never been too many Finns in European games. Fortunately, there is at least someone on the trip in the spring. I always wish there were more of them. A large percentage of Europeli’s spring representation comes from the big leagues, and there aren’t too many Huuhkajie players in them, says Pohja.
Hradecky has not played any Europa League games this season. The 20-year-old Terho played in five matches in the group stage of the Europa League, including one in the opening away match against Liverpool. Kairinen has played the biggest role among the Finns in the European Games in Prague.
– Like Pohjanpalo, he is an example of a player who has found a place where his strengths come to the fore. Hats off to the club choice, which advocates the development of a longer tendon, Pohja states.
Casper Terhoa has not yet been selected for the ranks of Huuhkajie. It is unlikely that new players will be brought in for the Euro qualifiers against Wales in March, but sooner or later Terho will also be able to play in the A national team.
– I expect that a healthy and necessary change will take place in the team. Fortunately, there are a few promising youngsters who are already playing in Europe, who need to be given a big screen in the fall at the latest, says Pohja.
Europa League, men
1st playoff round (15.2. & 22.2.)
Sparta Praha CZE (Kaan Kairinen)–Galatasaray TUR
Straight to the quarterfinals (draw 23.2.)
Bayer Leverkusen GER (Lukas Hradecky)
Conference League, Men
1st playoff round (15.2. & 22.2.)
Union St. Gilloise BEL (Casper Terho)–Eintracht Frankfurt GER
Champions League, Women
Semi-finals (20.3. & 28.3.)
Brann NOR (Joanna Tynnilä, Nanne Ruuskanen)–Barcelona ESP
Häcken SWE (Katariina Kosola)–PSG FRA
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