Viktoria Plzeň headed to the Czech capital
knowing that if they avoided defeat, they would claim their fifth league
championship in eight years. Stood opposite them on Saturday night, was Slavia
Prague, who needed a win in order to keep their title aspirations alive.
After sixteen minutes, Slavia took a lead that they never looked like surrendering. Even with the game in its infancy, the home side looked to be the more dominant. With the fans still finding their voice, Patrik Hrošovský was disposed in midfield and the in-form Miroslav Stoch’s long-range effort grazed the angle of bar and post. That set the tone for the opening quarter of the game. Except for one nervy moment when Marek Bakoš charged down Ondřej Kolář’s attempted clearance, Slavia were on the front foot.
The host’s first was somewhat fortuitous, as Radim Řezník inadvertently diverted a Slavia corner into his own goal when under pressure from both Stanislav Tecl and Michael Ngadeu.
Slavia had to wait until the second half to double their advantage, though the sewn-ones created plenty of chances to go two-nil before Stanislav Tecl found the net just before the hour mark. Stoch had the best of all early in the second-half when he had the chance to beat Matúš Kozáčik from the penalty spot, but the Slovak winger was unable to beat his compatriot from twelve yards.
The second goal did come, though. A rapid Slavia counter-attack saw returning club-captain Jaromír Zmrhal pick out Tecl, who rounded Kozáčik and slotted home from a tight angle.
Slavia’s victory may have just delayed the inevitable as Plzeň can secure the title next week. If the sewn-one’s fail to beat city rivals Dukla, a win for Viktoria over Slovácko will see them crowned champions.
Slavia’s eternal rivals, Sparta Prague, kicked Matchday 27 off on Friday when they welcomed Zlín to the Generali Arena in a battle of the ‘Letná’ clubs.
Since joining Sparta in January, Nicolae Stanciu has developed something of a reputation of being a free-kick specialist. The Romanian international has tormented opposition goalkeepers from set-piece situations and the former FCSB and Anderlecht man scored his sixth goal in eleven games when struck a free-kick on the edge of the box past a helpless Stanislav Dostál.
After the break, two of Sparta’s substitutes combined to put the game beyond the reaches of the Moravians. Costa Nhamoniesu, on a trademark, bombastic run down the left, picked out David Lafata inside the Zlín penalty area, presenting the veteran striker with the kind of opportunity he doesn’t miss. Moses Ubong Ekpai pulled one back for the visitors late on, but the Nigerian’s header was ultimately nothing more than a consolation effort.
Sparta’s victory them cut the gap to third-placed Sigma Olomouc to just three points, thanks in part to Václav Jílek’s side being held to a 1-1 draw by Bohemians 1905. The Prague side took the lead down at the Andrův stadión in somewhat lucky circumstances: Antonín Vaníček broke down the right and drilled the ball low across the six-yard line, which Václav Jemelka could do nothing with except divert the ball into the roof of his own goal.
Bohemians almost made it two shortly after, but Miloš Buchta denied both Martin Hašek and Benjamin Tetteh in quick succession, with the Sigma goalkeeper’s cat-like reflexes belying his 37 years.
The home side, chasing a return to Europe for the first time since 2010, got an equaliser with just ten minutes left to play. After a period of back-and-forth action, Sigma’s leveller came from the right foot of Jakub Plšek, whose swerving free-kick forced Tomáš Fryšták into a rare error of judgement.
Also up at the top of the table, Jablonec remain in fourth and in contention to claim their own place in Europe next season. After beating neighbours Slovan Liberec last week, the Strelnice side comfortably saw off relegation-threatened Zbrojovka Brno 3-0, thanks to Lukáš Masopust’s opener and a brace from midfielder Jakub Považanec. The win sets Jablonec up nicely for their MOL Cup final with Slavia Prague, while for Zbrojovka, the defeat means the former Czechoslovak champions could be relegated next weekend.
Karviná slipped into the relegation zone as they fell to a 3-1 defeat at home to Dukla Prague. Uroš Djuranovič, Lukáš Holík and Branislav Miloševič were all on target for the visitors, compared to just Jan Kalabiška for the hosts. Coincidentally, the last time Karviná slumped into the relegation zone was back in early November, on the back of a defeat to – you guessed it – Dukla Prague.
Baník Ostrava eked out of the bottom two thanks to their scrappy goalless draw with Mladá Boleslav, a game that saw Baník register more yellow cards (five) than shots on target (two). The best chance of the match fell to Petr Mareš, but the Mladá Boleslav man could only fire Tiemoko Konate’s pinpoint cross straight at Jan Laštůvka in the Baník goal.
Vysočina Jihlava jumped up three places to eleventh thanks to their 3-1 victory over Slovan Liberec at the Stadion u Nisy, a result that dents Liberec’s hopes at making the Europa League next year. In something of a surprise result, it was the hosts who went ahead just before the break, when Matěj Pulkrab netted his ninth of an impressive campaign.
But after half-time, the game swung in favour of Jihlava. Pavel Dvořák scored twice in fourteen minutes to turn the tie on its head before Dāvis Ikaunieks made it ten of the season with a crisp angled drive. With games against Karviná and Brno to come, survival is certainly in Vysočina’s own hands.
And finally, Slovácko and Teplice played out a 0-0 draw that drew fairly negative comments from both managers. But the result keeps Slovácko out of immediate danger and Teplice in the comfort of mid-table.