Watching the Czech sides in European action this week was a complete contrast. On one hand you have a swashbuckling Plzeň side, which stand on the verge of rubbing shoulders with Europe’s elite. Then you have a strong yet dull, robotic Sparta side that was humbled by depleted Romainian outfit Vaslui FC.
Sparta Prague have struggled in recent seasons trying to make the Champions League group stages, yet the Europa League has been this sides bread and butter for the last few years. Last night Sparta were left to rue two mistakes which cost them dearly, after just 13 minutes Tomas Zapotocny failed to intercept a through ball which left Gerlem through on goal, Sparta keeper Jaromir Blazek rushed out and took an almighty clattering and the ball was bundled home by Temwanjera.
The goal came against the run of play as Sparta had enjoyed a decent spell of possession. To make matters worse 10 minutes before half-time, Sparta keeper Blazek – who was still seeing stars from his earlier challenge – fumbled a routine cross into his own net. It was a goal which is sure to feature in the next edition of Danny Bakers Own Goals ‘n’ Gaffs DVD.
For all of Sparta’s huffing and puffing to try to get back into the game they still failed to really test the Vaslui keeper. Kweuke was anonymous for most of the game as his team mates let him down with poor service, it was an all round horrible performance which leaves them a mountain to climb next week.
Should they fail to overturn this 2-0 deficit next week in Prague, it will leave a gaping hole in their finances – something they can ill afford. Sparta has easily the biggest wage bill in the Czech Republic, with the moronic Tomas Repka picking up a cool 10m kc a year
Finances aside, the lack of European football will do little to persuade star striker Leonard Kweuke to stick around after the winter break. Lose Kweuke and Sparta lose their focal point. Their squad is strong and they should perform much better than last nights shocking display. Although in some aspects the display was not a surprise, as they produced a similar workmanlike performance at the weekend but got lucky by scoring two goals (beating Slovacko 2-0).
In a way, this Sparta side mirrors the Czech national side, the management and coaching is very confused in my eyes. Last night you saw Martin Hasek (newly promoted head coach) standing on the edge on the technical area complete with ear piece, like a Czech Sammy Lee. Whilst former head coach (now General Sport Manager) Jozef Chovanec sat in the dugout with his sharp suit looking on.
Who runs the show here? What responsibility does Chovanec retain? Sparta’s tactics seem to be to get the ball wide and give to Kweuke and let him do the rest.
Ironically though, Plzeň’s European adventures this season will probably hand the Gambrinus Liga crown back to Sparta Prague. Plzen are already 5 points behind Sparta as the current champions are struggling to juggle domestic and European commitments.
So maybe Hasek and his earpiece will last the season and win the league? Who knows?