Dolnoslaski AMA goalkeeper Krzysztof Czerniak has helped his team through to tonight's final, but it all seemed a long way away 65 minutes into their second game.
Dolnoslaski AMA goalkeeper Krzysztof Czerniak has helped his team through to tonight's UEFA Regions' Cup final, but it all seemed a long way away 65 minutes into their second fixture on Friday.
With the scores level at 0-0 against Switzerland’s Ticino AMA, the Polish goalkeeper helped a Gabriele Censi cross into his own net. If scores had stayed that way, Dolnoslaski would have been out with one match remaining, but Jarosław Gad swiftly equalised and with time running out Szymon Jaskulowski secured a 2-1 win which meant Sunday's 1-1 draw with Aveiro AMA gave Dolnoslaski first place in Group B.
"Me and my colleagues are absolutely delighted - anyone is delighted when they reach the final of any competition," Czerniak told uefa.com. "We will do our best in the final. These are memories for a lifetime." But there are still painful memories of the slip against Ticino. "It was a big blow for me to concede a goal like that," he said. "I still cannot explain what happened. At that moment I thought to myself that this could be the end and I would be the one to take the blame."
However, the Dolnoslaski players stood by their goalkeeper and were rewarded by heroics from Czerniak both towards the end of the Ticino game and against Aveiro. "We have a great team spirit," Czerniak said. "The boys did not say a word against me. They did not blame me for the goal. I got their support and that helped me a lot. During the entire game against Ticino we never lost our confidence. We arrived in Bulgaria to go as far as possible and we knew that the game with Ticino would be the crucial one. Football is a strange game and in a short space of time you could be a villain and then hero. I endured that in those 30 minutes against Ticino."
Czerniak is in a fine tradition of Polish goalkeepers including currently Jerzy Dudek, Tomasz Kuszczak, Artur Boruc, Bartosz Białkowski and new Arsenal FC signing Łukasz Fabiański. Czerniak said: "To be honest, I do not know the exact reason why so many excellent goalkeepers come from Poland - maybe it is the food! You must work really hard to reach the highest goalkeeping level. We have traditions and it is excellent to continue the trend."