Sparta falls short of Champions League qualification, but a chance remains for Europa league

Sparta Prague players after the elimination with Copenhagen

Sparta Praha lost in penalty kicks to FC Copenhagen last night, a devastating loss to the league’s reigning champions who were eager for a spot in the next round of the Champions League qualifications. We spoke to sports commentator Jiří Hošek about last night’s match.

Let’s recap last night. It was a fairly tight game ending in penalty kicks. FC Copenhagen had their first goal on the board within the first 15 seconds play. It must have been a tough match for Sparta coming so close. What do you think about the game?

Brian Priske | Photo: Kateřina Šulová,  ČTK

“I would give Sparta the edge in both rounds, I think Copenhagen was dominating the first picture, but after that it was all Sparta, they just failed to convert three or four really big chances, and they should have won the game in regulation time. It’s extremely sad because the path to the group stage of Champions League was really wide open for Sparta, which makes it even sadder for Sparta and their fans.

"But at the same time all credit should be given to the manager Brian Priske and his team for what they have achieved in the past 12 months. They really turned a team that was half broken, with many disputes in the locker room into a team which is very competitive and right at the top of the European stage.”

I guess it’s a bit of a double edged-sword with the team really turning a corner over the past 12 months and then falling short of the qualifications for Champions League. What are the factors that contributed to the team falling short last night?

Jan Kuchta,  Martin Vitík and captain Ladislav Krejčí | Photo: Kateřina Šulová,  ČTK

“Well you mentioned it, the conceding goal within the first 15 seconds of the game – that can just cripple a team’s mentality. Sparta managed to shake off the shocker, they created a lot of openings and chances, but I think they were not as clinical in their finishing stage. If we talk about their new striker Victor Olatunji, he had two really big chances and for him the whole experience – a full crowd, a lot of pressure where you realise what is at stake, I think he did not cope mentally with that situation and could not solve it properly.

"Then of course penalty shoot outs are a complete lottery. Given the fact that Sparta’s captain Ladislav Krejčí is extremely reliable with penalty shots, and he hit the crossbar with his first penalty last night, I think it kind of sealed Sparta’s elimination.”

Sparta still has a shot at qualifying for the Europa League, what do you think their chances are right now?

Peter Vindahl and the decisive scorer Roony Bardghji | Photo: Kateřina Šulová,  ČTK

“I think they have the confidence – they know that at least in autumn they will play the group stage of Europa Conference League, so the smallest of the European competitions, but still it’s a prestigious event. In the last playoff rounds for the Europa league they will play either AK Athens or Dinamo Zagreb from Croatia, both really tough teams – who are more or less on Sparta’s level.

"Again it will be decisive for Sparta to be clinical, and let’s see how they recover mentally from that really tough and devastating loss on Tuesday night.”