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

    Big names drop points as race at the top tightens

    Half of the top six dropped points this past weekend as the fight for the European places takes yet another interesting twist.

    Big names drop points as race at the top tightens

    Jakub Řezníček fired Sigma Olomouc to victory over Dukla Prague, with his hattrick proving ultimately providing to be the difference in the first of Friday night’s games.

    Played under the floodlights at the Stadion Juliska, Dukla, the home side, initially took the lead when Ivan Schranz recorded his first league goal since August, heading in at the back post. But after that opener, the visitors began to take control of the tie with Řezníček scoring three times and registering his maiden hat-trick in the Czech top flight.

    Dukla Prague pulled one back late on through right-back Ondřej Kušnír to set up a tense finale. But Sigma held on to record, in the words of coach Václav Jilek, ‘a huge victory’.

    Following on from that five-goal thriller in Prague was the tie between Baník Ostrava and Vysočina Jihlava, two sides battling at the wrong end of the table. Newly installed Baník Bohumil Páník went 4-4-2 in a bid to neutralise Jihlava’s strengths, a move that ultimately worked as the 2004 Czech champions ran out 3-1 winners. The three points for the league’s bottom-placed side came at a cost, however, as talismanic forward Milan Baroš was stretchered off in the final minutes.

    On Saturday afternoon, both Jablonec and Slovan Liberec cemented their position in the cluster of sides competing for Europe. The two neighbours both picked up what turned out to be crucial victories, with Jablonec beating Bohemians 2-1 and Liberec narrowly fending off Slovácko.

    Jablonec’s victory was their sixth in a row, a run that equals a club record set back during the 2010-11 season. Defender David Lischka, who made his debut for the Czech Under-21s during the international break, capped off a great week by opening the scoring. Bohemians equalised just before the interval through Martin Hašek but the winning goal came just after the hour mark when Montenegrin international Vladimir Jovovič curled in a free-kick from around twenty-five yards out. Jan Chramosta almost made it three late on, but the January signing from Mladá Boleslav saw his effort fantastically saved by Tomáš Fryšták.

    With six goals in four games, there was no denying that Matěj Pulkrab entered this past weekend as the HET Liga’s man in form. And the Slovan Liberec striker made is seven in five when he scored after just seven minutes in Uherské Hradiště. The visitors didn’t manage to extend their lead, though they controlled the majority of the game to eventually secure the points.

    The other game that took place on Saturday afternoon was the only goalless tie of the weekend as Zbrojovka Brno and Karviná played out a stalemate at the Městský fotbalový stadion Srbská. Neither side were able to break the deadlock, but it wasn’t through the want of trying: Brno had twenty-one efforts at goal while Karviná managed eleven. Somehow, nobody managed to put the ball in the back of the net.

    Last time out, Slavia Prague managed to stage a comeback for the ages as Jindřich Trpišovský’s side came from three goals down to secure a 3-3 draw with capital city rivals Sparta. This weekend, it was Slavia who suffered late heartbreak, as they slipped to a 2-1 defeat to Zlín. With the score level going into injury time, it seemed almost certain that the points would be shared. However, deep into time added on, a break-neck counter spearheaded by Vukadin Vukadinovič cut through the heart of Slavia and teed up Ubong Moses Ekpai to net the winner.

    Slavia’s defeat, coupled with victories for Liberec and Jablonec means that with eight games to go, just three points separate the defending champions in second and Jablonec in fifth. The race for Europe looks set to go down to the wire.

    Sparta Prague will hope to be part of that battle as the season draws to its conclusion, though their 1-1 draw with Teplice did them little favours. The Prague side have found travelling up to Na Stínadlech tough in recent years, with their last victory at the ground coming five years ago.

    Sparta took the lead through Nicolae Stanicu, with the Romanian scoring his fourth goal since moving to the Czech Republic in January. However, at half-time, Pavel Hapal was forced into a change at left-back, as Martin Frýdek succumbed to injury. When play resumed, Teplice targeted the left side of the Sparta defence and eventually found a way through when Alois Hyčka found space out wide and sent in a cross that was touched in by Marek Červenka. With that draw, Sparta find themselves three points behind Jablonec while Teplice locked in mid-table.

    Finally, Viktoria Plzeň remain clear at the top, though this weekend they suffered only their second defeat of the league season as they lost 2-1 to a revitalised Mladá Boleslav side. What made the result even more surprising was that Mladá Boleslav played for more than half-an-hour with ten men after Nikolai Komlichenko’s dismissal. But goals from Petr Mareš and Michal Hubínek sent the visitors on their way to securing a vital three points in their battle against the drop. Marek Bakoš did pull one back for Plzeň in the eighty-ninth minute but it was far too little too late.