The Czech champions Sparta Prague took on Italian outfit Palermo last night in the Europa League, it was an entertaining game with the home side taking the 3 points in a 3-2 victory. Most of my experiences of Czech football to date have been lacking quality and skill and I wasn’t expecting that to change last night – but credit to Sparta they played really well, I was anticipating a white wash from the Italians but this isn’t the same Palmero side that spanked West Ham 4 years ago.
Czech football has been in decline over the last 5/6 years as neighbours Slovakia have been flying the flag for Eastern Europe, this was highlighted in the recent European qualifiers as the Czechs fell 1-0 at home to the mighty Lithuania whilst the Slovaks travelled to Russia and won. Unfortunately players like Pavel Nedved only come around every 20/30 years, Baros is not the same player as Euro 2004 and as good as Tomas Rosicky is he seems to spend more time on the treatment table than on the pitch. It is indeed worrying times for Czech football fans.
Sparta started the game brightly and took the lead on 18 minutes when Wilfred Bony headed home from 6 yards, the Italians did look composed in possession and arguably looked the classier of both teams, showing some nice one touch football but they lacked an end product. However, Palermo where soon back in the game when Sparta keeper Blazek spilled a routine shot and Massimo Maccarone was on hand to level the game, this was only contribution of note from the former Middlesboro striker. Palermo had a decent spell in the second half and the young argentine Javier Pastore had a long-range effort palmed onto the bar. Shortly after Sparta would surge forward and score twice inside of 6 minutes to the put the game beyond Palermo.
Another great cross from Sparta was headed home by Kladrubsky in similar fashion to their first goal to make it 2-1 and before Palermo had time to regroup Sparta had scored a third through Kadlec. The Czech youngster has a massive future and was quick off the mark to steal in between two defenders and calmly poke the ball home. Palermo managed to fumble a late consolation 10 minutes from time but Sparta and the imposing figure of Tomas Repka held firm to seal the victory. The final whistle sparked wild celebrations amongst the Sparta ultras in the block next to us, I too felt the same relief as a quick dash to the toilets was made before we could see the players salute the fans on what is a famous victory for the Czech champions.
The victory will be greeted not just by the Sparta fans but the Czechs as a whole, as mentioned earlier the Slovakians have taken the limelight on the international stage whilst their club teams have also been putting the Czech teams in the shade. Slovakians MSK Zilina knocked out Sparta Prague in the Champions League qualifiers, whilst Zilina were drawn alongside the likes of Chelsea, Marseille and Spartak Moscow in the Champions League, Sparta face Palermo, CSKA Moscow and Lausanne in the watered down Europa League – not quite as glamorous is it?
Not to mention the untold riches Sparta will miss out on by failing to qualify for the group stages of the CL, it could have kept the club running for the next 100 years!
Still, despite the setbacks that Czech football has faced at least last night’s result will put a smile back on the fans faces, albeit temporarily.