succumbing to Slavia Prague last weekend, Viktoria Plzeň
entered matchday 28 knowing that they effectively had two chances to wrap up
the league title. Their first opportunity came on Saturday evening when they
welcomed Slovácko to the Doosan Arena.
The Uherské Hradiště-based side entered the contest on the back of five clean sheets, a run that has helped the club some daylight between themselves and the relegation zone. And against all the odds, they nearly made it six.
Beset by injuries, Pavel Vrba was forced into naming Jan Kovařík and Milan Petržela as in the Plzeň back four. But it was Petržela, who was filling in at right-back who almost put the hosts less than thirty seconds after Radek Příhoda had got the game underway. Yet the one-time Czech international saw his drilled effort kept out Milan Heča.
Heča would go on to have one of the best games of his career to date, coming to his side’s rescue on an increasingly regular basis. And when the league’s top scorer Michael Krmenčík was unable to find a way past the Slovácko goalkeeper with a point-blank header in the second half, it looked like it would just be ‘one of those nights’ in front goal for the west Bohemians.
That feeling only grew stronger when Lukáš Sadílek blocked Matúš Kozáčik’s attempted pass to Tomáš Horava. The ball fell kindly to Filip Kubala, who took one touch before firing past Kozáčik to put the visitors ahead.
Eight minutes later though, Plzeň were level and Milan Heča was finally beaten. The twenty-seven-year-old shot-stopper managed to keep out Martin Zeman’s attempt, but he couldn’t do anything about Tomáš Chorý’s follow-up which ricocheted into the net off the back of a stricken Jiří Krejčí.
Viktoria Plzeň’s second chance at claiming the title this past weekend came on Monday evening when Dukla Prague entertained Slavia. A win for Dukla would crown Plzeň champions, while a victory for Slavia would see the gap at the top cut to four points with six left to play for. In the end, Slavia, who won the MOL Cup a week ago, picked up a comfortable win, eventually defeating their city rivals 2-0 thanks to goals from Jan Sýkora and the in-form Miroslav Stoch.
So nothing was confirmed at the top of the table and similarly, nothing was settled at the other end either. Zbrojovka Brno entered the weekend needing to pick up their first win February to cling on to their survival hopes and they did just that, routing Teplice in emphatic fashion.
It was a day of firsts for Brno. As Antonin Růsek, Rafael Acosta, Konstantin Bazelyuk and Ladislav Krejčí all scored their first ever goals for Zbrojovka in a game that the south Moravian’s absolutely dominated. David Vanecek netted a consolation goal for the Glassmakers late on, but it ultimately mattered little and it failed didn’t prevent a number of Teplice supporters from accosting manager Daniel Smejkal after the final whistle.
Baník Ostrava moved out of the bottom two after the former Czech champions secured a vital point from their rain-soaked tie with Slovan Liberec.
About half-an-hour before kick-off in Vítkovice, the heavens opened and made conditions underfoot treacherous. So much so that Milan Baroš had to depart early on after slipping on the slick surface and picking up an injury. Things deteriorated when Liberec’s Liberian midfielder Oscar put the away side ahead on the stroke of half-time.
Baník’s deficit did not last long. Shortly after the break, Tomáš Poznar capped off a well-worked move, made possible by some quick-thinking and nimble footwork from Martin Fillo, to draw the home side level.
That point helped move Baník Ostrava further towards safety, though with just one point separating themselves between and the relegation places, Bohumil Paník’s rescue job is by no means complete.
Paník’s old club Zlín remain in the mire, with last season’s cup winners just three points away from the drop zone. On Saturday, they welcomed high-flying Sigma Olomouc to the Letná Stadion and were summarily put to the sword. Jakub Řezníček put the visitors ahead inside ten minutes and the on-loan striker almost had his second just before halftime: Řezníček rounded Zdenek Zlámal in the Zlín goal, but failed to get the final touch on the ball – that ‘honour’ fell to Ondřej Bačo who was credited with an own goal.
Lukáš Železník managed to bring the home side back into the contest with a close-range finish but Sigma, through Řezníček again, immediately responded to make it 3-1. A late David Houska made it 4-1 to cap off a ruthless performance.
Sigma Olomouc remain third and could qualify directly for the Europa League Grup Stages if they are able to hold on to that position. However, they have Jablonec and Sparta Prague breathing down their necks and both of their Europa rivals also won this weekend.
Jablonec suffered no hangover from their MOL Cup final defeat to Slavia in midweek as Jan Chramosta and Martin Doležal scored either side of a Pavel Dreksa strike while Sparta Prague found it tough going against Jihlava, but managed to secure what was ultimately a deserved victory through Guélor Kanga’s long-range effort.
Finally, it’s been a horrible season for Mladá Boleslav. In recent years, the club has been used to fighting for the European places than battling against the drop, but Jozef Weber’s side all but confirmed their safety with a 3-1 win over Bohemians 1905. But they needed some late drama to secure the points.
With the game locked at 1-1 after Tiémoko Konaté and Antonín Vaníček’s first-half goals, it seemed inevitable that the tie would end a score draw. However, two goals in the final five minutes from young defender Matěj Chaluš and veteran striker Lukáš Magera handed Bohemians only their second home defeat of the season.