Liberec on spot to win the FACR Cup

Slovan Liberec 1-1 Jablonec

2014-15 Czech Cup Final
Adidas Arena, Mlada Boleslav

Wherever you looked ahead of kick-off the final of the Czech Cup was full of intrigue and (dare it be mentioned) narrative. A victory for Slovan Liberec would see them cap off a remarkable season for all the wrong reasons in a positive manner, a victory for Jablonec would be justification that the club was on the right path in their bid to permanently break into the title picture. And then there was Pribram, who could qualify for Europe without even kicking a ball in anger.

But as is always the case with the Czech Cup there were other stories at play. Stories were circulating about a potential wrangle between Watford, Sparta Prague and the Czech FA regarding the European Under-21 Championships and social media was awash with rumours about Milan Skoda’s future. Meanwhile, the world and large swathes of the national, non-sporting press, were busying providing minute-by-minute coverage of the enthralling goings on inside the halls and secretive hotel rooms of FIFA. As usual, the Czech Cup couldn’t find a break – though this time it wasn’t the fault of the FACR, who have been guilty of mismanagement and short-sightedness when it comes to this competition.

Bar another Plzen-Sparta showdown, this was the most-interesting final that was on the cards when the path to Mlada Boleslav’s Mestsky Stadion was laid out. After all, who doesn’t want to see two local rivals vie for a trophy? But it could have been so do different: Jablonec reached this showpiece event by navigating both Sparta Prague and Mlada Boleslav, perhaps the hardest route to a final in recent memory whilst Liberec conspired to exit the tournament at every hurdle: A humiliation in Trinec here, a collapse in Teplice there, there really should never have made it this far and yet they did.

Silhavy, who switched U Nisy for Strelnice over the summer, opted to start the highly-touted winger Lukas Masopust at right-back instead of the highly-rated Spaniard Jose Romera. For forty-five minutes the decision seemed to work wonders as those in green enjoyed a number of blistering counter-attacks that, unfortunately for them, fizzled out to nothing. Defensively robust, they allowed a Slovan Liberec side not really geared up for a large swathes of possession to have the ball.

Masopust was the ying to the Synot Liga’s Player of the Season (in waiting) Filip Novak’s yang. When the Strelnice club pushed forward they easily opened up the Liberec defence with the left-back looking more like a left-winger a times, but the prolificacy of Martin Dolezal showed why Silhavy and Pelta are in desperate need of a forward this summer. But despite missing a handful of chances the former Sigma striker deservedly opened the scoring just before half-time. It seemed that there’d be no way back.

Yet Liberec like making things dramatic. Their appointment of David Vavruska has been nothing short of inspired and their former youth coach has single-handedly dragged the two-time Czech Republic league winners out of their alarming 2014 form. As the game wore on Slovan grew in stature and with the introduction of Michal Breznanik and a change in formation, they began to trouble their opponents in prolonged spells – not just the brief flashes and spurned chances that fell to Dzon Delarge in brief flurry when play resumed.

With the handbrake off Liberec finally got their deserved equaliser, though it came straight from some long-forgotten 1980’s playbook: A long ball was hoofed forward, a clamour of people failed to get underneath it and it bounced kindly for Marek Bakos who struck past Michal Spit. There were four minutes left to play. Penalties were next.

Pavelka scored, Novak missed. Frydek missed, Gregus scored. Breznanik scored, Dolezal missed. Sural scored, Rossi found Lukas Hrosso’s outstretched palm. Liberec won.

In Pribram somewhere, probably a dimly lit underground pub, a gaggle of people were huddled around the sole television set with their fingers crossed. At the front, some fresh-faced youngster with dreams of stardom sat, crossed-legged, on the stone floor wide-eyed. Towards the back, those veterans that had been around the block once or twice cut a more relaxed figure. European qualification will go down to the wire. Liberec and Jablonec know that they’re set for a continental jaunt this summer. But Pribram now need to better Mlada Boleslav’s result…

But anyway, back in Mlada Boleslav. Miroslav Pelta lifted up the trophy and instead of passing it to his captain and his manager, he ruefully handed it to those in blue.

Teams

Jablonec: Spit – Masopust, Pernica, Benes, Novak – Gregus, Hubschman – Kopic, Pospisil (81′ Rossi Silva), Mingazow (60′ Crnkic) – Dolezal

Liberec: Hrosso – Sus, Karisik (85′ Pimpara), Pokorny, Mudra – Pavelka, Soungole (78′ Bakos) – Sural, Delarge (62′ Breznanik), Frydek – Luckassen

  • Posted by Chris Boothroyd
  • On 27th May 2015

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