Slovan Bratislava’s European Journey Ends: Defeated by Sturm Graz in Europa Conference League Playoffs


In the inaugural encounter on Austrian soil, Slovan Bratislava suffered a resounding 1-4 defeat at the hands of their opponents. As the last-standing Slovak representative in this season’s European competitions, Slovan failed to replicate its performance from the previous year, where they reached the round of 16 in the Europa Conference League against FC Basel.

In Graz, Slovan Bratislava’s coach, Vladimír Weiss Sr., hinted at the possibility of a miraculous advancement for his team.

Despite the return of three reinforcements, including goalkeeper Milan Borjan, the score remained deadlock at 0-0 after the first half, placing the visitors in a precarious position regarding progression.

The decisive blow, in the form of Graz’s fifth goal across both legs, came in the 52nd minute courtesy of Mika Biereth. Missing midfielder Vladimír Weiss Jr. due to a suspension, the hosts struggled to replicate their past European successes in the post-independence era.

The European Hurdles

In a concerning trend, Slovan Bratislava received their third red card in as many Europa Conference League matches, with Cesar Blackman being the latest recipient during stoppage time.

This season, Slovakia was represented by four clubs in European competitions. However, both reigning runners-up Dunajská Streda and MŠK Žilina exited the Europa Conference League in the preliminary rounds. Trnava, holders of the Slovak Cup, faced a similar fate, bowing out during the group stage of the same competition.

Analysis of Slovan Bratislava’s European Clash: Strategy, Opportunities, and Setbacks

First Half:

The opening ten minutes saw both sides presented with a solitary potential chance each. However, referee Grinfeeld intervened with offside calls on Rodrigues and Kiteišvili’s attempts.

The sole shot on target in this phase came from Johnston from outside the box – Borjan managed to parry the ball forward but regained control promptly. While glimpses of opportunities emerged for both sides, neither could materialize any concrete chances, leading to an increase in fouls, particularly on Slovan’s end.

However, the hosts came closest to breaking the deadlock in the 25th minute – Rodrigues fed the ball to Kucka on the edge of the box, who skillfully maneuvered past a defender but struck the post with his finish. The “Belasí” had another opportunity from a direct free-kick after half an hour, but Barseghjan’s effort sailed over.

The Armenian attempted again shortly before halftime from a difficult angle, without success. Towards the end, Graz had a dangerous free-kick opportunity, and Strelec attempted a shot from the edge of the small box after a sharp pass from Barseghjan. However, Slovan’s goalkeeper Jaroš held firm, and Strelec left the field with a yellow card.

Second Half:

Neither coach made any substitutions at halftime. Slovan initiated a short corner after the break and subsequently defended one as well.

However, the ball slipped through Bajrič’s grasp, and Borjan couldn’t reach Biereth’s shot towards the post. The goal spurred the visitors into action, displaying a strong offensive spell despite their overall 5-1 lead, forcing the opponent into a deep defensive block.

Tolič and Barseghjan had significant opportunities on the other end, but the visitors’ defense showcased great resilience. Horvat, who came on as a substitute, received the ball behind Graz’s defense but was flagged offside.

Despite the clear verdict, Slovan exhibited a commendable combinational effort towards the end, maintaining proximity to the opponent’s goal. However, despite five substitutions, the “Belasí” ran out of steam, failing to equalize.

The disappointing impression from the two-legged encounter was accentuated by defender Blackman, who received a red card for a foul on the advancing Sarkariu.

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