Thursday 12 October 2023

Ground #395 - Stadion Cracovii

Date: 23rd September 2023
Location: Zwierzyniec, Kraków, Poland
Ground: Stadion Cracovii

My twentieth new ground of 2023 was on Saturday 23rd September at Stadion Cracovii in Zwierzyniec, Kraków, Poland. The game was Cracovia vs. Pogoń Szczecin in the Polish Ekstraklasa.

Stadion Cracovii is situated in the west of the city in a largely residential area close to the Vistula River. The arena has housing to the south and west, shops to the east and sits opposite a park to the north. It is a couple of miles west of the city's main railway station but is very well served by the Kraków tram network with several stops nearby. Football has been played on the site of the stadium since 1912 but the current venue dates to 2010 when a new complex was built on the site of the demolished old stadium.

Unusually both the eastern and western ends are taken up entirely by entrance turnstiles, with no fan entrances on the northern and southern sides. The northern side instead has a sports rehab centre, a wine bar, a club shop and another sports equipment shop. Inside the stadium the largest stand is the southern one - this is a three-tier structure where the middle tier is a slim one with only a few rows of seating and hospitality behind them. The western end of this stand extends round to form a quadrant in the south-east corner while the top tier of the eastern end stops dead once it reaches the east stand. The western end of the lower deck has a gap for emergency access which has the effect of disrupting the uniformity of the this side. 

The north stand runs alongside the pitch and is separated by fencing halfway along it. On my visit the eastern half was the noisier of the two sides. There is a security camera on a pole in front of this stand which causes some restricted views in the stand. This is aimed towards away fans who take up the north-west corner. The rest of this stand is taken up by home fans and there is some additional fencing behind the goal. The seating at this end goes back further than the eastern end where there are corporate facilities at the back which stop the general seating early. The eastern end is home to the club ultras who display various flags and tifos during the game as well as orchestrated flare displays.

One point and five positions separated the two sides before kick-off. Szczecin only suffered eight defeats en route to 4th place the previous season but had already been beaten four times in the opening seven games. With the away side keen to get their season cracking they raced out of the traps and went ahead inside ten minutes. It came from the penalty spot when Kamil Grosicki was clumsily tripped by Benjamin Källman on the edge of the box. Grosicki took the resulting penalty and sent Cracovia keeper Sebastian Madejski the wrong way. Källman almost atoned for his error a few minutes later when he met Mateusz Bochnak's cross with a deft backheel which went just wide. After 20 minutes Pogoń went two goals to the good - a corner was nodded on by Frederik Ulvestad and Alexander Gorgon ghosted round the back to knock in on the line. Cracovia would've been disappointed to concede a poor goal like this and it was again left to Källman to attempt a recovery with his shot from just outside the box going just wide. Szczecin were well-worth their lead at half-time having outmuscled Cracovia in the middle of the park. It then took them less than five minutes after the break to grab a third. An attack down the left by Kamil Grosicki saw the ball made its way across the area, and with Pogon attackers queuing up Alexander Gorgon dispatched the ball for his second of the game. Cracovia were given a potential lifeline a few minutes later after a soft foul was given after an intervention by VAR. Patryk Makuch was judged to be the fouled man after light contact with Mariusz Malec but Makuch's penalty was saved by Valentin Cokocaru. Any hope the hosts had of getting anything was extinguished in the 64th minute minute - Efthimios Koulouris chested down a high ball, performed a neat flick past a defender and then expertly curled the ball into the bottom corner of the net from 20 yards. The visitors notched up their fifth goal in the 87th minute as two subs linked up - Olaf Korczakowski's first-time cross from the left was missed by Luka Zahovic in the centre of goal but Kacper Smolinski was on hand at the back post to slot home. The away side did blot their copybook in the fourth minute of injury time by conceding when they switched off at the back allowing Michal Rokoczy to sneak past the defence and slam past the keeper when one-on-one. But that was only a minor damper on proceedings with an excellent result for the club and its supporters to take back home to the north-west of Poland with them. 

Result: Cracovia 1-5 Pogoń Szczecin
Division: Polish Ekstraklasa
Attendance: 9,017

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