Games don’t come much bigger than this in the Fortuna Liga. We saw first placed DAC 1904 coming up against second placed Slovan Bratislava. The former are in search of their first ever league title and the latter, the most successful team in Slovakia, looking for their 13th title. DAC have been a pleasure to watch in a season where they’ve scored the second most goals in the league and conceded the least. Playing without their top scorer in the injured Nikola Krstovic, they were unable to take advantage of a golden opportunity to go 9 points clear at the top. Slovan came away as deserved winners in this fiery affair, beating DAC 2-1.
- A1 – Very good, could play higher
- A2 – Strong potential to play higher
- B1 – Good, strong player at level
- B2 – Potential to be a strong player at level
- C – Average for the level, rewatch
- D – Below average in this match
- Nationality: Spanish
- Age: 21
- Date of birth: 28/07/2001
- Club: DAC 1904
- Career: Alcoyano U19, Zemplin Michalovce, DAC 1904
- Position: Left Wing
- Preferred foot: Left
Mendez is a diminutive left winger. What he lacks in size, he makes up for in pace. He was often outmuscled when in close proximity to the opposition but when he had space to run into, he showed an electric turn of pace. On one occasion whilst chasing a through ball, Mendez caught up 4 or 5 yards on the full back, eventually getting past him to receive the ball and put a good cross in.
This also highlights another excellent trait: his workrate. He showed fantastic willingness to work for his team throughout the 81 minutes he was on the pitch. Whether it was in the attacking or defensive third, Mendez was ever present. It’s obvious that at previous teams he was played as a left back, as he found himself breaking up play as the furthest player back on a number of occasions.
Technically, Mendez shows a lot of skill. He was comfortable on the ball, had a good first touch, and was able to regularly find the right pass. He was able to take good, positive first touches past defenders, and also showed the confidence to take down awkward high balls in tight situations. He was involved in the build up to the goal, bursting out to get into a good wide position, receive the ball, take a positive forward touch and quickly find a team mate at the edge of the box. Whilst not an assist, his movement and quick thinking aided in the quick attack that left Slovan on the back foot.
Unfortunately, the afternoon didn’t go all his way. Due to either a miscommunication with his team mate or Mendez losing his man, Čavrić was given a free header to score the first goal. He recovered well and blocked a cross immediately after the goal, but would have been left disappointed a couple of minutes later. A bad attempt at a backpass led to Slovan taking control of possession, and in the next phase of play were able to attack down Mendez’ wing and get a great ball into the box for their winning goal.
Rating – B1
At only 21 years of age, I think Mendez has a bit of maturing to do. I definitely wouldn’t put all of the blame for both goals on him, but he definitely played a part. He showed a lot of promise in both an attacking and a defensive sense, but I feel he doesn’t quite fit the shape DAC play. For me, Mendez is a modern wing back. He’s too attacking to be a full back, and not attacking enough to be a left winger. DAC won’t be changing their shape any time soon, so it’s yet to be seen if they can fully fit Mendez into either of his potential positions.
- Nationality: Greek
- Age: 20
- Date of birth: 26/06/2002
- Club: DAC 1904 Dunajská Streda
- Career: Panathinaikos Athens U19, FK Senica, Zlate Moravce, DAC 1904 Dunajská Streda
- Position: Center Forward
- Preferred foot: Right
Stepping in for the injured and highly rated top scorer Nikola Krstović was always going to be a hard ask for the 20 year old. Much of DAC’s success this year comes down to the effectiveness of the man with 23 goals in all competitions this year, and 6 goal Niarchos isn’t nearly as highly rated in Slovakia. Although, the Greece Under 21 cap did show promise.
The first thing that stuck out to me was his work rate and off the ball positioning. When DAC were in possession, he made smart runs to draw defenders out of position and free up space for his team mates. Defensively, he was constantly chasing down balls in the attacking third, and never looked like he was losing energy. His closing down wasn’t similar to that of a headless chicken though. It was calculated, and had clear intent and purpose. He’d push players into busy areas, stop passes coming back from where they came from, and really showed that he can defend from the front. This tenacity was exemplified when chasing a defender driving out from the back and eventually winning the ball deep into his own half. Even though it was a bit of a striker’s tackle, it worked. This eagerness to win the ball didn’t always pay off though, with Niarchos naively giving away numerous silly fouls in situations where just putting the defender under pressure would have been the better option.
His high energy was paired with a wealth of pace and agility. Niarchos could be described as scrawny, but quick. He’s more comfortable playing off the defender or with the ball at his feet than he was in a physical battle with the opposition. When he was able to find a pocket of space to receive the ball, he showed to have a great touch, and at one point was able to drive down the wing past two players and into the box, before being tackled and winning a corner. When attempting to hold off a defender, you could tell he wasn’t as comfortable. His touch often looked uncertain under the pressure of a man on his back.
Rating – B1
There are lots of positives about Niarchos game. Like Mendez, I think he may be another young player that’s being shoehorned into a position that doesn’t fully fit his skillset. In what is predominantly a lone striker role, he’s often required to play a physical game that he doesn’t quite have yet even though his work rate, speed, and energy do cause trouble. At only 20 years of age, there’s an abundance of time to tweak his game to maximise his ability, and playing alongside the league’s best striker will only be a benefit to him.