Pavel Vrba’s side entered their
penultimate game of the season, a home tie with Teplice, knowing that they had
to match or better Slavia Prague’s result to win a fifth league title in eight
years. Come the final whistle, their 2-1 win mattered little as 100km away in
the capital, Slavia fell 3-1 to Jablonec in a result that not only confirmed
Plzeň’s status as champions but blew the race for the other European spaces
Long before Michael Krmenčík rifled in Plzeň’s opener, the Doosan Arena was filled with a celebratory atmosphere. Over in Prague, Jablonec had raced into a 2-0 lead thanks to Jakub Považanec’s thirty-yard howitzer and a smart, albeit deflected, finish from Jan Chramosta. And news of Slavia’s two-goal deficit had filtered through to west Bohemia.
After Krmenčík’s strike, the soon-to-be champions coasted to victory, doubling their lead through Milan Petržela. Their former striker, David Vaněček, pulled one back for Teplice with five minutes left to play, but that ultimately was too little too later for the visitors. Plzeň’s victory and with it the league title was, at that point, a formality and when Pavel Julínek brought the game to its end, the hosts began their celebrations in earnest.
Back over in the capital, things had gone from bad to worse for the defending champions. They clearly were having the better of the game, but they were just unable to convert their chances. Meanwhile, their opponents in green were ruthlessly clinical when going forwards and extended their lead when Michal Trávník’s free-kick caught Ondřej Kolář out, giving Petr Rada’s in-form side an insurmountable three-goal cushion.
Jindřich Trpišovský made two changes at half-time, bringing on Milan Škoda and Danny, but the double change failed to improve Slavia’s effectiveness in front of goal. Jan Sýkora did manage to score for the home side in the eighty-third minute but by that time, their title aspirations had long since vanished.
Jablonec’s victory – to use an English-language cliché - threw the cat amongst the pigeons in the race for Europe. With the win, the Strelnice-based club jumped up to third and now sit three points behind Slavia. And given that they now hold the head-to-head record over the Prague side, the final Champions League place will go down to the final day. So too will the Europa League places as Sparta Prague moved up to fourth thanks to a narrow 1-0 win over Sigma Olomouc in what was David Lafata’s final game at the Generali Arena.
All four sides (Slavia, Jablonec, Sparta and Olomouc) have qualified for Europe, it’s just a question of deciding which competition they’ll compete in and at which stage they’ll enter.
Zbrojovka Brno entered their tie with Vysočina Jihlava knowing that they had to win to keep their slim survival hopes alive. But despite having the home field advantage and coming into the game off the back of a convincing 4-1 thumping of Teplice, the former Czechoslovak champions failed to pick up the victory they needed to keep their status as a top-flight team for another week at least.
As to who will go down alongside Brno, that remains to be seen. Karviná and Baník Ostrava played out a tetchy and nervous 0-0 draw that leaves both clubs in danger of going down on the final day, while Zlín’s 1-1 draw with Slovácko means this season’s Europa League entrants could also drop a division come Saturday evening. Jihlava too are not safe themselves, but as they play Karviná, they at least are in control of their own destiny.
Elsewhere, Slovan Liberec recorded their first league victory in nearly two months as a much-changed side were able to see off Bohemians 1905 1-0, thanks to Matěj Pulkrab’s tenth goal of a very impressive campaign. And, Nikolaj Komličenko scored what will probably be one of the easiest goals in his career when he tapped in from a few yards out to give Mladá Boleslav a 1-0 win over Dukla Prague.