Poznan

Local Football

05 Oct 2017

In 1982 Lech won their first silverware after defeating Pogoń Szczecin in the Polish Cup final, while the next two seasons brought back-to-back triumphs in the league as “Kolejorz” started to make a name for themselves in Europe as well. Despite losing to the likes of Athletico Bilbao, Liverpool and Aberdeen, Lech were remembered for their attractive, attacking football. In 1988, Lech went out in the Cup Winners’ Cup to a Barcelona side after two dramatic draws which ended with the Catalonians going through on penalties. That Barcelona team featured among others Gary Lineker and Jose Mari Bakero the latter of whom would become Lech’s manager more than twenty years later.

The early nineties brought the third and fourth championships to Poznań as Lech dominated the national scene but it was the fifth triumph in 1993 that brought the biggest controversy. In the final round of matches, with Lech in third place and unable to win the title, Legia Warsaw and ŁKS Lódź played their final games knowing it could go down to the number of goals scored. In what can best be described as a very strange final matchday, Legia won 6-0 in Krakow pipping ŁKS to the title despite their 7-1 defeat of Olimpia. Although no person was actually accused of anything both clubs were disqualified and the title went to Lech. Until today, Legia fans claim that the “Railwaymen” won the league around the table and not on the pitch.

That turned out to be Lech’s last success for many years, and disastrous management in the following seasons sealed relegation in 2000 after twenty-eight years in the Polish top flight. It only took two years to return and in 2003, as the first steps towards the building of the new stadium were made, Lech won the Polish Cup, despite minimal resources, under manager Czesław Michniewicz. The triumph was even sweeter as it was Legia who were defeated in the final over two legs. In 2006 Lech controversially merged with fellow Ekstraklasa side Amica Wronki who though much smaller were well financed, while Lech attracted all the attention and support in the Wielkopolska region. Despite all the protests, the fans eventually agreed and the fusion of the two clubs was completed.

This turned out to be a very successful move as Lech went onto win the Polish Cup, the Super Cup and then in 2010, their sixth championship. The biggest star of this new team was the young striker Robert Lewandowski, who, with eighteen goals, won the Ekstraklasa Golden Boot. Semir Stilić was the league’s leading playmaker, while very good performances from Colombian defender Manuel Arboleda were enough for the Polish media to demand Polish citizenship for him. Lewandowski left soon after for Borussia Dortmund but the signing of Latvian Artiom Rudnev proved more than a decent replacement – he became famous for hitting a hat-trick in Turin against Juventus.

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