Viktoria Plzen 1-1 Sparta Prague
2013-14 Czech Cup Final
Sparta Prague win on penalties.
With Viktoria Plzen leading with the game moving into stoppage time, Pavel Horvath was willing to while away time on his own by the corner flag.
Victory, it seemed, was inevitable. But possession was lost, but the calm remained.
The opposing centre-backs traded position momentarily before Sparta Prague found enough space to build from the back and pile forwards one last time. Working the ball out to Ladislav Krejci on the left, the direct winger took aim with a hopeful cross. It struck Milan Petrzela.
The crowd waited; Petrzela rolled around, attempting to convince Miroslav Zelinka that the ball had caught him square in the temple, but the referee was not fooled. In a cool, calm and calculated moment Zelinka pointed to the spot.
Josef Husbauer converted from twelve yards and forced the final into a penalty shoot-out.
No extra-time and crucially for Petrzela; no time to hide.
Dusan Uhrin tried to shield the right-winger, who cut a rueful figure during the interlude, but by the time the tenth round of penalties came to fruition the former Czech international could not shy away.
Unfortunately, he was always going to miss.
Moments later Pavel Kaderabek triumphantly smashed his spot-kick high into the roof of the net and wheeled away in celebration.
It was a dramatic ending to a final that had offered so much but had in truth been relatively nondescript for large portions.
For thirty minutes the final of the Pohar Ceske Posty was a dull affair. It was, until that point, a game of football that was being played at a lethargic tempo in front of a voiceless set of fans in a sparsely populated stadium.
Much has been made about the numerous decisions by the FACR ahead of the cup final and the opening stages of the game between Sparta Prague and Viktoria Plzen reflected the apathy that was exhaled from the stands: Nobody seemed to care.
Yet when the half hour mark was passed, the fans sprang into life and chants of ‘Pelta ven’ (and more) began to echo around Eden. The final that had promised so much and had been the subject of much discourse in its build had, up to the half time whistle, been a damp squib.
The last time these two clubs met, Sparta blew Viktorka out of the water inside the opening ten minutes and many pondered if a similar blueprint would be used by Viteslav Lavicka. That day Sparta relentlessly pressed a lethargic Plzen side into submission. It was a plan that worked and it symbolically showcased the transfer of power from Plzen to Prague.
But since then Plzen have undergone a mini-transformation under Dusan Uhrin Jr.’s tutelage: their emphasis on possession has dwindled – instead, Uhrin has installed a pacier and more direct philosophy – and Pavel Horvath, so often the lynchpin of the side, has been gradually withdrawn in favour of the dynamic and mobile Patrik Hrosovsky.
With Sparta’s strength in midfield many expected the Slovak to get the nod, but Uhrin instead opted for Horvath’s nous and experience. The opportunity was there for Sparta to press again; to target the ailing legs of the near 40-year-old from the outset and repeat the formula that had worked earlier, yet Lavicka decided to be more cautious.
The game was short on quality but not short on goalmouth action as both teams had chances to score in the first-half yet nobody seemed willing to break the deadlock.
Perhaps doing so would have diverted attention away from the protests.
Thankfully though the second-half immediately served up chances. A mistake by Pavel Kaderabek allowed Jan Kovarik to pick out Petrzela, only to out jostled by Matej Hybs with the goal gaping. With Plzen forcing Sparta back, the pressure grew but the score stoically remained deadlocked.
It came as no surprise that when the ball finally crossed the line, it did so in a fortuitous manner. A Plzen corner was punched clear by Tomas Vaclik, but the ball fell kindly to Radim Reznik who speculatively fired the ball back towards goal where it cannoned off a bewildered Ondrej Svejdik. Vaclik was wrong-footed and helpless.
It did not look like Plzen would ever surrender their narrow lead, but football is determined by fine margins.
Sparta would go on to celebrate and Milan Petrzela, who had been one of the better players on the evening, was left distraught.
As Pavel Kaderabek capped off a memorable week by rifling in the winning penalty security flooded onto the pitch, presumably pre-empting a pitch invasion that had celebration and protest at its heart. The trouble, so often dangled in the faces of the public before the game never materialised.
A cup final that should have promoted everything that was great about the Czech game ended behind a wall of security and was tinged with mediocrity on the pitch and demonstrations in the stands.
The cup is much maligned in the Czech Republic and it got the two finalists the competition deserved. Ultimately, it delivered the match the FACR and Miroslav Pelta merited.
Plzen: Kozacik – Reznik, Hejda, Prochazka, Limbersky – Horvath, Horava – Petrzela, Kolar, Kovarik (90′ Hubnik) – Tecl (89′ Wagner)
- Posted by Chris Boothroyd
- On 18th May 2014