Czech clubs Liberec, Mlada Boleslav, miss chance at Champions League

Martin Jiranek, photo: CTK

Two Czech football clubs have failed to progress in the third and final qualifying round for club football's most prestigious championship, the Champions League. Ahead of their game, few gave tiny Mlada Boleslav much chance at beating Turkey's Galatasaray already up a number of goals on aggregate, but there were hopes on Wednesday that Slovan Liberec might pull through. They faced Spartak Moscow in the Russian capital. Fifteen minutes before time it was close. In the drizzling rain, both sides were tied 1:1 - a situation that would have seen Liberec through. But, it didn't stay that way.

Martin Jiranek,  photo: CTK
The defending Czech league champions - put in a feisty appearance and they had reason to be hopeful: in their last five league matches they had not conceded a goal. But, on Wednesday night in Moscow, things turned out a little differently. The first Spartak goal came early on a brilliant play in just the 23rd minute by Spartak midfielder Mozart. The Brazilian international stunned Liberec by redirecting a cross and sending a sensational drive past keeper Marek Cech. For the Czech team things then got even worse: in the 57th minute Tomas Zapotocny was sent off for a second bookable defence, leaving his side down to ten men.

But, Liberec kept working at it and were thrown a lifeline seventeen minutes from time. Defender Martin Jiranek (from the Czech Republic himself) was called on a penalty for bringing down a Liberec player in the box. Hodur took the spot-kick - a low drive that evened the score at 1:1, a score line favouring Liberec on aggregate. It didn't hold for long: the Czech champions' chances were spoiled for good when Spartak's Pavlyuchenko scored eleven minutes from time, bringing the home side visible relief. Only two Czechs took pleasure at the finish - the already mentioned Spartak player Jiranek and defender Radoslav Kovac.

Mlada Boleslav - Galatasaray,  photo: CTK
Meanwhile, in the other Czech game on Wednesday in Mlada Boleslav the home side eked out a 1:1 tie with Turkey's Galatasaray but unfortunately it wasn't worth much, given that Boleslav lost the first leg match heavily. Now, no other Czech clubs remain in this year's Champions League. Form the very start Sparta Prague was the most "conspicuously" absent: in the past the famous Prague team has competed seven times, three times making it to the second stage. Sparta will now have to regain - and retain - top footing in the Czech league, if it hopes to return to the Champions League in 2007.