After 497 minutes without conceding – a run which helped his side more than double their points tally for the Polish season – Emilijus Zubas was finally beaten on Sunday as bottom-of-the-table GKS Bełchatów lost 1-0 at Korona Kielce.
A mid-season signing, the 22-year-old Lithuanian international has made the best start to life in the Ekstraklasa by a foreign goalkeeper, keeping five clean sheets in his first five appearances. That sequence was the continuation of an eventful few months in which he had a trial at Legia Warszawa, among other teams, before signing a contract with Latvian outfit FK Daugava Rīga who swiftly dispatched him to struggling GKS on a six-month loan.
Zubas, whose new side had a mere six points from 15 games before his arrival, told UEFA.com: "I was not scared of the fact the club were bottom of the league. I knew I would get to play here and at a better level than before."
Though life off the pitch in Belchatow, a small industrial town in central Poland, is quiet, things on the pitch are anything but for Zubas. He is enjoying playing in front of large, enthusiastic crowds in some of the stadiums built for UEFA EURO 2012. In Lithuania, where he made 58 top-flight outings for FK Ekranas, attendances seldom exceed 3,000.
"My fourth game [a 0-0 draw] was in Poznan with as many as 22,000 fans," he said. "Everyone is singing from start to finish and the atmosphere is really incredible." Does that make him nervous? "Not at all. You just go out and enjoy the game. It is actually extra motivation to play even better."
Perform he certainly has. His first five matches included trips to league leaders Legia and second-placed KKS Lech Poznań – both drawn 0-0 – and a home game with champions WKS Śląsk Wrocław, which brought a 1-0 success. After his quintet of shutouts, Zubas's net was eventually breached on Sunday when Korona's Vlastimir Jovanović struck the only goal on 47 minutes.
"I did not expect such a great start to my career here," said Zubas, capped for the first time by Lithuania last month in a friendly against Albania. "It's the best scenario you could have imagined. My best game was probably against Lech, where they had 24 shots. Of course, fortune also played its part. As in every sport, things would be hard without some luck."
Despite accruing seven points from their first five fixtures after the winter break, GKS remain bottom, nine shy of safety. Nonetheless, optimism still abounds that relegation can be avoided. "It seemed everyone gave up after the first half of the season," said Zubas. "Psychologically, it was probably easier for me to play when the team had nothing to lose. Now there is hope, even though it will be very hard. If we survived it would be a miracle."
As for Zubas – who has been dubbed 'Zub-izarreta' by team-mates and fans after former FC Barcelona and Spain No1 Andoni Zubizarreta – he is taking his new-found fame in his stride. "I only think about how we can earn the points that would help us survive. This month will be decisive because we play all our main rivals. Should we win at least two games, survival is still possible."
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