Dejan Iliev and his new boss Ivaylo Petev had a nightmare debut on Saturday, as Jagiellonia Białystok lost 0-3 to relegation-threatened Wisła Kraków.

Dejan Iliev walking out with Jagellonia Białystok before their game (Photo by Robert Bońkowski)
Dejan Iliev walking out with Jagellonia Białystok before their game (Photo by Robert Bońkowski)

As with Arsenal’s other loanees, we’ve partnered up with a local writer to bring us reports on the progress of Dejan Iliev with Jagiellonia Białystok over the coming months.

Unfortunately, Eryk Delinger didn’t have the most positive update to bring us after Iliev’s debut. Read on for the match report.

Wisła Kraków 3-0 Jagiellonia Białystok

The opening game of 2020 was supposed to be a fresh start for Jagiellonia. It was a competitive debut for their new manager Ivaylo Petev, a man with Champions League and international experience.

It turned out to be an utter disappointment, and Arsenal loanee Iliev was largely at fault for that, as his spectacular error decided the match.

The game was between two sides currently occupying league positions way below their expectations. Ninth-placed Jagiellonia’s pre-season aim was top-four and Europa League qualification, while 15th-placed Wisła, captained by former Dortmund star Jakub Błaszczykowski, seemed to have the quality for a steady mid-table finish. Iliev’s club thoroughly failed to confirm their ambitions on this occasion though.

The North Macedionan goalie started off in a promising manner – instantly showing himself to be a pro-active type, keen to leave his line – and making a couple of simple yet convincing saves in the process.

The first disappointment of the night came late in the first half, as Wisła’s counter-attack finished with striker Alon Turgeman, an Ekstraklasa debutant himself, easily skipping past Iliev and slotting the ball into an empty net.

The worst was yet to come though. In the 55th minute, just as Jagiellonia seemed to have finally found some rhythm and looked likely to equalise, a mildly-threatening long ball from halfway line arrived on the edge of Jagiellonia’s box.

Iliev rushed to collect it, but ended up crashing into his own right-back. The mishandled ball fell to Wisła player for an easy finish. Dejan’s mishap pretty much killed the game off, as the hosts managed to keep Jagiellonia at bay until the end.

The visitors’ disastrous Saturday evening ended with 17-year old prodigy Aleksander Buksa’s stunning finish Iliev could do nothing about.

A worrying start for Iliev

Dejan Iliev after signing on loan for Jagiellonia Białystok (Photo via Twitter)
Dejan Iliev after signing on loan for Jagiellonia Białystok (Photo via Twitter)

Jagiellonia were the inferior side throughout, but the scoreline is a bit flattering for Wisła and the Arsenal man is very much to blame.

Iliev’s poor showing spells trouble for his coach. The 24-year old was ear-marked as #1 since Petev’s arrival, so fans are already questioning their new manager’s decision-making.

It certainly doesn’t help that Jagiellonia’s former number one Sandomierski, forced out of the club this winter to accommodate Iliev, quickly became a starter for Romanian league leaders and EL group runners-up Cluj.

At his post-match presser, Ivaylo Petev apologised to Jaga supporters for “a performance they didn’t deserve” and moved to defend his goalie:

“Everybody makes mistakes. It was our conscious decision [to make Iliev the #1], based on what we’ve seen during our mid-season preparations. Obviously, today’s conditions were very different – it’s one thing to perform in friendlies, it’s another to repeat that in a competitive game.”

Luckily for Iliev, it’s Wisła Kraków’s performance and not his error that’s grabbing the headlines. All the same, his future performances are now bound to fall under heavy scrutiny.