matchweek 18
    1AC Sparta Praha1742:1244
    2SK Slavia Praha1630:1139
    3FC Viktoria Plzeň1637:2429
    41.FC Slovácko1721:1729
    5SK Sigma Olomouc1727:2028
    6FK Mladá Boleslav1633:2826
    7FC Baník Ostrava1622:1524
    8FC Slovan Liberec1623:2421
    9Bohemians Praha 19051613:1921
    10FK Teplice1715:1820
    11FK Jablonec1718:2319
    12FC Hradec Králové1617:2317
    13MFK Karviná1618:2913
    14FK Pardubice1713:2513
    15FC Zlín1615:3711
    16SK Dynamo České Budějovice1615:3410

    The 289th ‘S’ derby serves up an all-time classic

    There is only one place to start this week and that’s at the Generali Arena and the 289th Prague ‘S’ derby between Sparta and Slavia.

    The 289th ‘S’ derby serves up an all-time classic

    With a blanket of fresh snow turning the already picturesque city of Prague into a true winter wonderland, there was, for a time, a legitimate fear that the ‘S’ derby may have to be called off. But thankfully, the game went ahead and the Czech capital’s two biggest football clubs combined to create one of the most memorable matches seen in recent memory.

    The derby was quite literally a game of two halves. In the first forty-five minutes, it was all Sparta. After the break, it was all Slavia. For Sparta, the 3-3 draw will feel like a defeat. For Slavia, it will feel like a victory.

    Srđan Plavšić was handed a rare start and Sparta’s summer signing from Crvena Zvezda recorded the game’s first shot on target when he tested Ondřej Kolář with a rasping drive from the edge of the area. Although Plavšić stood out during the game’s opening moments, it was Nicolae Stanicu who dominated the first-half.

    Shortly after Kolář had saved Plavšić’s effort, the Slavia goalkeeper was picking the ball out of his net while the Generali Arena roared in celebration. Martin Frýdek picked out Stanicu on the right and the Romanian international drove towards the byline before driving a low cross across goal that Kolář could only divert in at his near post.

    Sparta could have doubled their lead shortly after going ahead, if not for the intervention of the VAR, who spotted Lukáš Štetina in an offside position and interfering with play, when Stanciu’s fired in. But the home side did get their second, and it was a carbon copy of their first when another drilled cross from Stanciu caused panic in the Slavia penalty areas. This time though, it was Tomáš Souček who was the unlucky party.

    VAR was called into action once more when Slavia looked to have got on the scoresheet through Jan Bořil. However, replays showed that Milan Škoda was offside in the build and for the second time, a goal was correctly ruled out.

    That decision almost proved to be vital for Sparta as just minutes later, Nicolae Stanicu capped off a virtuoso first-half performance and fired past Kolář to give the hosts a 3-0 lead.

    During the break, Jindřich Trpišovský brought on Jakub Hromada and Mick Van Buren for Danny and Michal Frydrych, and changed systems in the process. The switch of formation altered the complexion of the tie as Slavia began to dominate in midfield. Both Miroslav Stoch and Josef Hušbauer fired warning shots, but it was the Slovakian who was the first in red and white to breach Florian Niţă’s goal.

    The visitors piled forward and reduced the deficit further when Simon Deli headed in Hušbauer’s corner with seven minutes to go. The finale was frantic and the game reached a crescendo when, in time added on, Stanislav Tecl went down in the Sparta penalty area. Amidst protestations from a contingent of Slavia players, referee Pavel Královec waved play on, only to bring the game back on the advice of the VAR. After seeing a replay of the incident, a penalty was awarded and Milan Škoda made no mistake from twelve yards to score a dramatic equaliser and cap off a truly remarkable ninety minutes of football.

    Away from the frenetic ‘S’ derby, Viktoria Plzeň returned to domestic action after suffering a heart-breaking exit from the Europa League. Pavel Vrba’s side suffered no fatigue or ill-effects of their monumental effort to take Portuguese giants Sporting CP to extra-time as they recorded their sixteenth victory of the season, beating Zlín 1-0 down in southeastern Moravia.

    That loss was Zlín’s fourth defeat in a row, a run which sees last season’s MOL Cup winners drop to thirteenth in the table, just two places and two points clear of Zbrojovka Brno in fifteenth. Brno kicked off the weekend’s action with their trip north to face Slovan Liberec. Unfortunately for Zbrojovka, they were tasked with containing the in-form Matěj Pulkrab who scored a first-half brace to ensure that Slovan went home with the spoils. That’s now five goals in three games for the on-loan Sparta forward.

    Also entering this weekend in a rich vein of form were Jablonec and Vysočina Jihlava, who had both started the spring season with four successive victories. The pair met on Saturday in a clash to determine who’d top the form table but, perhaps surprisingly, the event was a one-sided affair, with Jablonec running out 4-0 winners. Lukáš Masopust scored twice against his former side, with Martin Dolezal and Tomáš Holeš also finding the back of the net. The performance certainly caught the eye of national team boss Karel Jarolím, who called up Masopust and Jablonec midfielder Michal Trávník for the upcoming international break.

    Jablonec’s win sees the club move into fifth and thanks to their run of victories – which now stands at five – Petr Rada’s side are just a point behind Sigma Olomouc in fourth. After suffering defeat to Slavia Prague last weekend, Sigma Olomouc hoped to rebound against Karviná. Although Sigma took the lead through Jakub Plšek, the visitors immediately levelled the game thanks to Lukáš Budínský’s seventh of the season.

    With three points now covering Liberec in third and Sparta in sixth, the race for the Europa League looks like it will go down to the wire.

    Bohemians 1905 are on the cusp of being considered a contender for Europe and although they remain on the outside looking in, their 2-0 win over Teplice certainly keeps them in the equation. If any of the top six stumbles, then the Vršovice club are well positioned to capitalise.

    After a string of poor performances and results, Dukla Prague picked up their first win of the spring when they recorded a 2-1 victory over Baník Ostrava. Patrik Brander and Ondřej Kušnír scored for the former Army side while Baník could only net a late consolation through Milan Baroš. Dukla move up to tenth while Baník remain rooted to the foot of the table.

    And finally, Mladá Boleslav and Slovácko played out a 1-1 draw, a result that does either team little favours in their respective battles against the drop.  Nikolaj Komličenko opened the scoring for Mladá Boleslav in the first-half when he got in behind the Slovácko and slipped the ball past Milan Heča. An uneventful second-half followed and it seemed that would pick up a much-needed win for Mladá Boleslav but Tomáš Zajíc grabbed an equaliser for Slovácko to ensure that the points would be shared.