After victory over Ajax, Slavia makes it to the Champions League
On Wednesday night, Slavia Prague, one of the oldest and most successful Czech football clubs, beat Ajax Amsterdam 2:1 in the second leg of the third - and final - qualification round of the Champions League and advanced to the group stage of the competition, for the first time in history.
The opening passages of Wednesday's game were promising. Slavia was not primarily focused on defending the one-goal advantage from the first match a fortnight earlier and gradually built up some good opportunities. Then, in the 13th minute, the crowd froze - the star Vladimir Smicer who signed up with his old team this year after 11 seasons abroad - had to leave the pitch due to a muscle injury. Being one of the two Czech footballers ever to win the Champions League and by far the most experienced of the red-and-whites, this might have proved crucial. But it was Slavia that scored the opening goal. Only ten minutes later, however, Ajax was back in the game with an equalizer. Here is what Vladimir Smicer had to say.
And they were very dangerous indeed. Some 20 minutes into the second half, Slavia's defence slowly began to crumble under the continuous waves of attacks by the visiting team. If it were not for Martin Vaniak in Slavia's goal, it would have been the Dutch celebrating their advance.
This year, Slavia Prague finally made it to the Champions League. A club without its own stadium, almost always second to the city rival Sparta, will see its budget double with the revenues from the Champions League. For Slavia, this might be the beginning of a new era.