Sparta win Czech football league in most dramatic finale in years

Photo: CTK

England legend Gary Lineker famously described football as a simple game in which two teams of 11 chase a ball for 90 minutes and the Germans always win. Well, here in the Czech Republic it seems it's a sport that Sparta Prague always win - they have just taken the 34th league title in their history. That said, it was far from a routine win for Sparta, with the most dramatic end to the season in many a long year.

Photo: CTK
Mistri, mistri (champions, champions) was the chant at a sold out Toyota Arena on Monday evening, as Sparta Prague won the Czech league in the very last round with a 5:0 demolition of Most.

The end of the 2006-2007 season was the closest in years, with Sparta going into their last game just one point clear of Slovan Liberec.

Michal Bilek,  photo: CTK
The country's richest and most successful club had gotten off to a sluggish start to the season, with a string of poor results costing coach Stanislav Griga his job. Griga's replacement, former Sparta player Michal Bilek, promised a rod of iron, but while standards did on the whole improve, progress was in fits and starts.

But the occasional embarrassing defeats and inconsistent performances were all forgotten on Monday evening as fans and players celebrated at Letna.

"We've entered the history books," said Sparta goalkeeper Jaromir Blazek, referring to the fact they've become the first club since the split of Czechoslovakia to achieve a league and cup double.

Jaromir Blazek,  photo: CTK
Looking to the future, some pundits have likened a far from brilliant Sparta to a one-eyed king in the generally poor Czech league. Coming first gives them a place in the qualifying rounds for the extremely lucrative Champions League and that will be a real test.

Photo: CTK
Former Sparta playing legend and now assistant coach Horst Siegl said the club would need to strengthen their squad. Siegl accepted that they would face tough opposition for a place in the Champions League, but said it was also a huge motivation.

Sparta's eternal rivals Slavia Prague have also reached the Champions League qualifiers, after finishing second with a 2:1 win over Ceske Budejovice.

Spare a thought, though, for poor Slovan Liberec: they were just a point behind Sparta before Monday's last round but ended up in fourth, after taking a 4:0 drubbing from Mlada Boleslav. The latter will be fighting for a place in the UEFA Cup, while Liberec's only reward for a long season, during which they at one point led the table, is a place in the lowly Intertoto Cup.