Čech, Nedvěd face off in Champions League

Pavel Nedvěd

Two of the Czech Republic’s most famous footballers, Pavel Nedvěd of Juventus Turin and Chelsea’s Petr Čech faced off for the first time on Wednesday in the Champions League. The closely-played match saw Chelsea clinch the narrowest of wins ahead of the second-leg on March 10. Nevertheless, for Czech fans the match-up between Nedvěd and Čech was something of a special event, not least because the Juve midfielder has said he will soon retire from the game.

Last year Chelsea, with Czech goalie Petr Čech came agonisingly close to winning the Champions League in a nail-biting final against Manchester but were defeated on penalties. Pavel Nedvěd also had a shot at it with Juve in 2003, but his side also lost. Now another chance: while the final itself is a way off, both teams are in the last 16. And, they faced off in the first-leg at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday - the first time the teams have competed against each other in the Champions League. Ahead of the match Petr Čech described the situation:

Petr Čech, photo: Filip Jandourek / ČRo
“This game will be unusual in the sense that I know Pavel really well and we played a lot of matches together, some of them important ones for the national team. But this will be the first time I’ll face him as an opponent. I myself am curious how things will go.”

At 26, Čech is still widely-considered one of the best goalkeepers in the game, while Nedvěd, who was named Europe’s best footballer in 2003, remains in phenomenal form. On Wednesday, both had their moments, although it was Čech who came out ahead, making a number of key saves, including a stop on Del Piero. In extra time, he was almost beaten, and was lucky a low ball by Nedvěd’s was deflected and went just wide. Chelsea were able to hold on for the 1:0 win, giving them a slim advantage into the second-leg. That match takes place in Italy on March 10, which will be Nedvěd’s last Champions League appearance if Juve lose. The 36-year-old player has already made clear he will retire in the summer.

“I don’t think it’s any big secret: I think this season will be my last for Juventus.”

Over the years, Pavel Nedvěd has been nothing if not tireless and consistent: a star player capable of scoring key goals in key matches, always dangerous on the pitch. On March 10, he will have yet another chance to make a difference, hoping to stave off an early exit for his team from the Champions League.