Sparta Prague continue dream run into final eight of Europa League

Photo: ČTK

Sparta Prague created the upset of the night in football's Europa League on Thursday night when they routed and humbled Lazio Rome 3:0 away. They are now rubbing shoulders with some major clubs in the last eight of the competition and face a tricky trip to Spain.

Lukáš Juliš,  photo: ČTK
A fairy tale first half for Sparta Prague in the eternal city on Thursday night with Lukáš Juliš adding a third goal without reply in Lazio Rome’s Olympic Stadium.

Earlier, a superb strike from Bořek Dockal had given the visitors the early lead and an all important away goal in the 10th minute. The every lively and lithe Ladislav Krejčí added a second two minutes later with a placed shot in the corner and Lazio were already looking shell shocked. Lukáš Juliš’ somewhat opportunistic connection from close range in the 44th minute was the death knell for any realistic prospects of a Lazio comeback.

Zdeněk Ščasný,  photo: ČTK
Juliš was on for first choice Sparta striker David Lafata who has netted five times in Europa League outings so far. He is still not fit after a long-running injury. In spite of sustained pressure the Czech side kept a clean sheet until the final whistle and are through to the last eight of the Europa League.

Perhaps, Lazio should have taken note that Sparta appear even more potent away than at home, putting three without reply past Russia’s Krasnador stadium in the previous leg. Sparta coach Zdeněk Ščasný described the win as the best result of his managing career so far.

Sparta, so far undefeated in the Europa League after going through the play off rounds, will now face Villarreal, one of three Spanish clubs in Friday’s draw. The first leg will be played in Spain on April 7 with the return a week later. The clubs have not previously faced each other.

Photo: ČTK
Sparta also have little recent pedigree at such advanced stages of European competitions. They reached the quarter finals last time round in the 1983-1984 season, losing to Croatian team Hejduk Split in the then UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup. Further back in history, in 1973 Sparta reached the semi-finals of the same competition, finally going down to AC Milan.

But Sparta’s Roman triumphs will quickly become history for the staff and players. The club is now looking forward to a crunch derby game at home against city rivals Slavia Prague in the top Czech league on Sunday.

Photo: ČTK
Sparta are second in the league but trail leaders Viktoria Plzeň by six points with a game in hand. Slavia are fifth in the league but have undergone something of a resurgence. Sparta last dropped points at home against their city rivals back in 2008.