The opening weekend of the 2017-18 HET Liga season offered little in the way of surprises. Sure, people will point at Bohemians’ last-gasp goal against Sparta Prague to secure a point, but given that the Stramaccioni revolution is still in its infancy, teething problems are to be expected.
The obvious happened pretty much everywhere else: Everybody’s tip for relegation, Jihlava, lost, Viktoria Plzeň won and Mladá Boleslav were a little preoccupied with a midweek trip to Bosnia and were caught cold by Sigma Olomouc. Oh, and Milan Baroš scored on his return to Baník Ostrava (more on that over at CT Sport).
Sadly, as has become the norm in Czech football, when the players take to the field, controversy follows. It took all of eight minutes for Slavia-Teplice to become overshadowed by the referee and all of the associated baggage, claims and finger pointing that comes when the man in black gets a decision wrong.
Unfortunately, Pavel Orel’s mistake had consequences – match-altering consequences. Normally known for being fond of dishing out a yellow card or two, the UEFA recognised official saw a potential inside the Teplice box, thought about it for a while as play went on around him, and then opted to award a penalty. It was not so much the decision that angered everybody, moreover the length of time that it took Orel to conclude that Tomáš Vondrášek had blocked Michal Frydrych’s header with his hand. The fact that it was wrong only added fuel to the fire.
Almost immediately, the television broadcasters and social media posters were showing replays that proved that Vondrášek was innocent of the charge brought upon him. He had blocked Frydrych’s goal-bound header – but with his own head. To add insult to injury, he was belatedly booked for his troubles and could only watch in a resigned manner as Halil Altintop calmly sent Tomáš Grigar the wrong way from twelve yards.
“Unfortunately, even the referee is only human,” mused Vondrášek after the game. And here lies the issues with mistakes, especially in the Czech Republic: Even the most innocent of errors can – and will – be viewed with extreme suspicion. The obvious narrative that Slavia, with all of their Chinese money, can now buy referees appeared. Whilst that line of thought is clearly unfounded, the same accusations would have been levelled at Sparta or Plzeň if they had benefitted from a similar slip-up. It is the result of years of mudslinging between fan bases and cronyism at the top of the Czech FA and it’s incredibly ugly to witness. Given the vast amount of wealth that this season’s champions will get, this issue won’t go away until referees have access to technology. And that could be a few years away at the very least.
Away from the discourse about refereeing decisions, it is worth noting that Teplice can feel very hard done by to leave the Eden Arena empty-handed. With an eye on Slavia’s Champions League tie in Belarus in midweek, Jaroslav Šilhavý made seven changes from the side that started against BATE a few days previously.
Teplice, playing at full strength, more than matched the defending champions. Michal Jeřábek, David Vaněček and Tomáš Kučera all had chances to either score or test Jan Laštůvka. Unfortunately for the Glassblowers, they couldn’t find a way past the former Dnipro and Karviná goalkeeper. And so, when the full-time whistle went, it was Pavel Orel’s error of judgement and Halil Altintop’s calmness from the spot that separated the two sides.
HET Liga Results
Friday 28th July
Zbrojovka Brno 1-3 Baník Ostrava
Saturday 29th July
Karviná 2-0 Vysočina Jihlava
Slavia Prague 1-0 Teplice
Slovácko 1-1 Jablonec
Viktoria Plzeň 4-0 Dukla Prague
Sunday 29th July
Mladá Boleslav 1-2 Sigma Olomouc
Slovan Liberec 1-0 Zlín
Sparta Prague 1-1 Bohemians 1905
- Posted by Chris Boothroyd
- On 1st August 2017