Though temperatures were decidedly frosty, the race for the European places heated up this weekend as Slavia Prague and Slovan Liberec both won, while Sigma Olomouc, Sparta Prague and league-leaders Viktoria Plzeň all dropped points.
The cold snap that has got most of Europe in its grasp made its presence felt over the weekend, with every HET Liga game having to contend with sub-zero temperatures and, in some cases, a fair bit of snow. The tie that was, arguably, most affected by the late onset of winter weather was the Vršovice derby which was played out in temperatures so cold that drinks began to ice over in the stands.
A crowd of nearly 10,000 braved the conditions to watch a game that was decided by a phenomenal strike by Josef Hušbauer on the stroke of halftime. The midfielder’s twenty-yard effort secured Jindřich Trpišovský his first victory as Slavia Prague manager and handed the Eden club their first home Vršovice derby win over Bohemians 1905 in five years.
Although the tie ended 1-0 in favour of Slavia, the hosts did put the ball in the back of the Bohemians net early on, only to see Milan Škoda’s header chalked off after the intervention of the video referee. Bohemians too had their chances to score, though try as they might, they just could not get on the scoresheet. David Bartek went closed for Bohemka, but the thirty-year-old’s effort struck both posts before being cleared to safety.
With that win at Eden and results elsewhere this weekend, Slavia moved up into second in the table. Sigma Olomouc slipped to a 1-0 defeat at Zbrojovka Brno, with Uruguayan winger Rafael Acosta getting the winning goal – and his first since returning to the Czech Republic after a stint in Mexico – and over in Uherské Hradiště, Sparta Prague were held to a 1-1 draw by Slovácko.
Sparta’s tie with Slovácko was especially memorable for the teenage forward Václav Drchal, who scored on his senior debut for the Prague side. However, not to be outdone, Slovácko’s own prodigal striker Tomáš Zajíc grabbed a late equaliser
Another benefactor of Sparta Prague and Sigma Olomouc dropping points this weekend were Slovan Liberec, who made it two wins from two under new coach David Holoubek with a 1-0 win over a struggling Mladá Boleslav. Matěj Pulkrab’s goal came when winter signing Oscar Murphy Dorley’s shot rebounded into the path of the on-loan Sparta forward and the loanee made no mistake from six-yards out.
That defeat meant that Mladá Boleslav had lost five on the trot and with the side languishing in thirteenth, the club’s board made the decision to fire Dušan Uhrin Jr on Monday and announced Jozef Weber as his replacement.
Weber’s old club, Karviná, won big on Sunday, putting four past Zlín in a thoroughly convincing display. Tomáš Wágner was the star of the show, scoring twice, while Lukáš Budínský and Marek Janečka also found the back. After the game, Bohumil Páník lamented a number of poor performances from his players but he ended up paying the ultimate price for an indifferent season so far. Páník’s assistants, Jan Kameník and Jan Somberg will take temporary charge of the defending MOL Cup champions until a permanent manager is named in the coming weeks.
On Friday night, there were fireworks of some sort as Dukla Prague hosted Jablonec in the Czech capital. With the tie in its infancy, melting ice managed to short-circuit the electrics, causing the floodlights to fail. Those in attendances were left in the dark for some time as the PA system also went down, but after some hard work, Dukla managed to shine a light on proceedings and allow the game to resume. Yet for all their efforts in ensuring the tie would be able to carry on as scheduled, Dukla ended up losing 1-0.
The pattern of 1-0 wins extended through to Monday when Viktoria Plzeň, who reached the Europa League last 16 last week, hosted Vysočina Jihlava.
Pavel Vrba’s side entered the game unbeaten in the league and facing a side sat fifteenth in the table. However, Vysočina Jihlava under new manager Martin Svědík look to be a club reborn and after beating Slavia Prague last week, Jihlava picked off Plzeň to hand the runaway leaders their first loss in the league. The defeat does little to derail Plzeň’s seemingly imperious march towards the title, though the three points are invaluable for Jihlava who are now only a point away from safety.
Finally, in the tie played on Saturday night, Teplice and Baník Ostrava played out a 0-0 draw, a result that doesn’t really do either side any favours.