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Artmedia adventure gathers pace

Published: Thursday 20 October 2005, 16.13CET
FC Artmedia coach Vladimír Weiss described his team's achievements as "almost a miracle" after they prolonged their terrific run at Rangers FC.
by Adam Szreter
from Glasgow

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Published: Thursday 20 October 2005, 16.13CET

Artmedia adventure gathers pace

FC Artmedia coach Vladimír Weiss described his team's achievements as "almost a miracle" after they prolonged their terrific run at Rangers FC.
During their scarcely believable UEFA Champions League odyssey, FC Artmedia have broken a lot of unwritten rules. For a start, teams who come within seconds of being knocked out by the champions of Kazakhstan in the first qualifying round do not generally find themselves in contention for a place in the last 16 of the world's premier club competition.

Big heart
By the same token very few sides at this level field so many players from their own country. Artmedia began with nine Slovakians on the pitch against Rangers FC on Matchday 3, and the other two were from the Czech Republic, a country that until a few years ago was joined to their own. It was fascinating to see how the team with the big heart from the little country, as their coach Vladimír Weiss described them, would compete against a side drawn from eight nations and three continents.

Striking contrast
On paper it should have been no contest, and the sight of Artmedia's players dutifully waiting in line to pick up their kit bags from the bowels of the team coach when they arrived at Ibrox merely reinforced the impression that, if this was not men against boys, then it was hardened professionals against plucky amateurs.

Patience required
The pressure was on Rangers, expected to win but under fire locally after a less than convincing start to the domestic campaign. Manager Alex McLeish was pacing the technical area after just three minutes and the anxiety among the fans was palpable. McLeish turned to them, arms aloft, imploring them to be patient.

Important clearance
As usual much was expected of Rangers captain Barry Ferguson, the sole Scot in their starting lineup. He began brightly, prompting his team-mates and drawing an important clearance early on from Ján Ďurica, the Artmedia central defender who had arrived with a blossoming reputation.

Key performer
Another who has impressed is playmaker Ján Kozák and he did so again last night, launching counterattacks with astute passes or slowing the pace of the game intelligently and assisting his captain Balázs Borbély in breaking up play when necessary. But even he was outshone by Juraj Čobej.

Čobej brilliance
With four fine saves in the first half and another three in the second, the Artmedia goalkeeper was undoubtedly the reason why the Scottish champions' admirable efforts went unrewarded. Even when he looked beaten towards the end of the first half he cleverly steered Dado Pršo so wide that the Croatian striker could only find the side-netting.

'Fantastic guy'
It was little wonder Čobej walked off at the interval smiling, as he had done throughout the Champions League anthem before the start. "He is a fantastic goalkeeper, a fantastic guy and a friend," said coach Weiss. "He is very calm, and his calmness rubs off on the other members of the team."

Coach content
Weiss, the scorer of Slovakia's first international goal in 1994, looked exhausted and slightly bemused, especially when asked if he felt his team could go on and win Group H. "I am proud of my team," he told uefa.com. "For us it's a wonderful life at the moment, some wonderful matches - almost a miracle. We don't have a lot of money to pay players from other countries, we have only our players and four from the Czech Republic, but we have good discipline and we are very friendly between coach and players."

McLeish frustration
His opposite number McLeish seemed understandably frustrated after watching his side produce one of their best performances of the season but fail to win. They will again fancy their chances of three points in Bratislava, but with only one more home game, against group favourites FC Internazionale Milano, their hopes of progressing beyond the group stage for the first time in five attempts have clearly receded.

Last updated: 20/10/05 15.16CET

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