Sometimes there’s a result that appears that goes against the natural order and ushers in a new era. Time will tell whether Slavia’s derby-day victory over Prague rivals Sparta will be such an occasion, but already the shockwaves are being felt in the capital.
In the lead up to the 283rd “S” derby back in the spring, I believed that this fixture had taken up second billing to the games between Sparta and Viktoria Plzen. Those ties, I said, were for the title; the derby was nowadays just for local pride. Things were formulaic: Sparta would triumph at a canter and there may be one or two talking points stemming from the fixture, but with four consecutive Letna victories and Slavia in turmoil, could it really be viewed as the showcase for Czech football? “No”, I argued.
That afternoon Milan Skoda produced trickery that belied his playing style to conjure up one of the all-time great “S” derby goals inside the opening five minutes. But like all the inevitable things in life, Sparta won. Sparta seemingly always won these games.
Many people (myself included) believed that this weekend’s clash would follow the familiar narrative. How wrong we were. Instead we were treated to a snarling game that swayed from one end to the other that was played out at a ridiculously high tempo, especially in the first-half. And one game which showed that Sparta and Slavia may well have swapped places.
The warning signs were there that an upset might happen. Whilst not exactly being a revelation this season Slavia Prague are certainly much improved on the side that finished last season with a customary whimper. Dusan Uhrin has made them tough to beat and, for the first time in a while, there’s a strong sense of identity running throughout the squad. There’s a steel and stone up front and in defence and the midfielders are typically younger and more expansive. Tomas Soucek has stepped up this year and has taken to senior football like the proverbial duck to water and looks like an excellent foil for the industrious Jaromir Zmrhal and the creative Levan Kenia, who is finally flourishing in red and white. And that’s without mentioning the optimism that’s around Eden thanks to CEFC’s recent takeover; there’s a distinct feeling that good times are finally around the corner.
On the other side of the coin Sparta have been unconvincing so far. Domestically dominant yes, but there’s always been a question mark or two. Just what is their strategy (3-5-2 or 4-3-3?) and just what is there philosophy these days, is it it stick with local players and their academy or is it to buy their way to the title by relying upon a contingent of heavily paid imports? At the moment, Zdenek Scasny and the Letna hierarchy are stuck between the two approaches and finding that neither are working well. True, they’ve been winning games but that hasn’t stopped the Czech press from asking: “Just what exactly do you stand for?”
That shift became apparent during the half-time interval when Scasny hauled off Josef Husbauer and Matej Hybs for Kehinde Fatai and Jakub Brabec and switched from 4-3-3 to 3-5-2 seemingly on a whim. Slavia had just taken the lead through Zmrhal’s long range shot, but to say that Sparta were playing badly would have been an exaggeration. Tactically the change didn’t work and post-match it became apparent that Scasny acted in such a manner to make an example of those her perceived to be under-performing.
Remind me, which club is supposed to be in crisis?
Slava Prague 1-0 Sparta Prague
Slavia: Berkovec 6; Mikula 7, Deli 7, Latka 7, Jablonsky 6; Soucek 8, Zmrhal 7; Voltr 6 (90′ Bilek), Kenia 7 (90′ Frydrych), Stohanzl 8 (69′ Cerny 6); Skoda 7
Sparta: Bicik 5; Frydek 4, Holek 6, Costa 5. Hybs 5 (46′ Brabec 5); Husbauer 5 (46′ Fatai 6), Jiracek 5 (73′ Konate 5), Matejovsky 6; Dockal 5, Lafata 4, Krejci 5
- Is there anything more predictable than Dukla Prague failing to beat thoroughly average sides? After dropping two points away at Jihlava last week they threw three away this time around as they allowed Brno to come from behind to win at Juliska. Throw in the opening day defeat to Slovacko and the draw with Bohemians and it’s been a terrible start for Lubos Kozel’s side.
- On Saturday evening Viktoria Plzen v Slovan Liberec took top billing and the match between the two Europa League contenders didn’t disappoint. Liberec became the first team to score against Karel Krejci’s Plzen side when Herolind Shala cooly slotted home, but Plzen rallied to become the first team to beat Jindrich Trpisovsky’s Liberec in the league thanks to late strikes from Michal Duris and Aidin Mahmutovic. Plzen leapfrog Liberec to go second.
- It has been a barren six weeks or so on the banks of the Litavka but Tomas Pilik helped Pribram record their first league victory since the back end of August. In his professional career thus far, the home-grown midfielder has a pretty abject scoring record: his most prolific season was back in 2013-14 when he netted three times. But on Saturday he put Jihlava to the sword and grabbed his first ever hat trick.
Dukla Prague 1-2 Zbrojovka Brno
(39′ Berger – 63′ & 73′ Reznicek)
Jablonec 1-2 Mlada Boleslav
(70′ Tecl – 37′ Cermak, 75′ Magera)
Pribram 4-1 Vysocina Jihlava
(16′ Hnanicek, 20′, 23′ & 58′ Pilik – 68′ Mesanovic)
Sigma Olomouc 1-1 Zlin
(58′ Ordos – 66′ Kores)
Slavia Prague 1-0 Sparta Prague
Slovacko 1-0 Bohemians 1905
Teplice 1-0 Banik Ostrava
Viktoria Plzen 2-1 Slovan Liberec
(75′ Duris, 86′ Mahmutovic – 55′ Shala)
- Posted by Chris Boothroyd
- On 28th September 2015