Fans of football team Slovan Bratislava have something to cheer about.
The 1999-2000 football season promises to be a bitterly contested one, as the league plans to pare its roster down from the current 16 teams to 10 sides. Clubs not finishing in the top nine will thus be relegated to the Slovak second division, with one lower echelon team being elevated next year.
The four top-ranked teams - Spartak Trnava, 1FC Košice, Inter Bratislava and defending champions Slovak Bratislava - started well, with two wins and a draw among them. Košice scored an easy 4-1 victory away at Žilina, while rivals Trnava kept pace with a 2-1 victory in Banská Bystrica. Slovan was held to a 1-1 draw with Tatran Prešov, while its cross city rivals Inter lost a 3-2 shocker to perennial patsies SCP Ružomberok in a game featuring two red cards and a 90th minute goal by Ružomberok.
Perhaps the most interesting result of the weekend was VTJ Koba Senec's 1-0 defeat of the home side in Dubnica. Senec, which was elevated to the premier league this year in a controversial decision, came storming out of the gate determined to win respect among Mars Superliga clubs. The hapless Dubnica, which dropped nine matches in a row to end the last season, never threatened the Senec goal.
The Mars Superliga continues with matches on July 31 and August 1, the most interesting of which have Inter at Petržalka on Sunday at the tiny Petržalka stadium beside the Starý Most, across the river from Bratislava's Old Town.
Slovan loses in Champions League opener
Slovak premier league champion Slovan lost 2-1 to Cyprus champion Anorthosis Famagusta on July 28 in the first of two preliminary round Champions League matches between the two teams. The next match is set for August 4 at Slovan stadium in Bratislava.
Slovakia was defeated by what its coach called "the weaker team" by a 90th minute penalty shot struck home by the Cyprians.
If Slovan advances in Champions League competition, it will face Hertha Berlin on August 11 and 25.
Davis Cup disapppointment
Slovak tennis star Dominík Hrbatý (19th in ATP rankings) was defeated in five sets by Russian number two Marat Safin (37th) on July 18, bringing an abrupt end to Slovakia's Davis Cup ambitions for this year.
Slovakia lost its quarterfinal Davis Cup World Group round 3-2 to Russia after trouncing Switzerland 5-0 in an earlier round.
Slovakia had gone into the final day of competition with Russia down 2-1 after winning a doubles match featuring Hrbatý and compatriot Karol Kučera (13th on the ATP list) against Safin and Yevgeni Kafelnikov (4th).
The Slovaks levelled at 2-2 after Kučera thrashed Kafelnikov in three sets. But Safin's ground strokes and powerful serve were too much for Hrbatý, who staved off defeat in a fourth set tiebreak (7-3) only to lose 4-6 in the deciding set.
CCCP redshirts skate again
On Sunday, August 8, the Ondreja Nepelu Winter Stadium (the home of Slovan Bratislava) will host current and former hockey stars from the Czech Republic, Slovakia and the Soviet Union. Jaromír Jagr, Peter Bondra, Vyacheslav Fetisov, Igor Larionov, Jozef Golonka Alexander Ragulin, Jiři Lála and many others will hit the ice to stage a nostalgic Czechoslovakia-CCCP matchup.
Tickets went on sale July 30 at Hysteria Pub and Ondreja Nepelu Stadium (take trolleys 215 or 212, or bus 31) for either 490 or 590 Slovak crowns.