Sports News

By Peter Smith

Yes, it's the sport of course and starting with the hockey, Sparta Prague became the first Extraliga Play-off finalists of the season when they beat Vitkovice 3-2 at the weekend. The visitors came from behind with strikes from Kasparik, Bros and Kratena to take the series 3-0. 'We showed a lot of strength,' said the ecstatic Sparta trainer Frantisek Vyborny said after the match. 'I really cannot believe it - a few weeks ago were worried making the play-offs and now we are in the final.'

The possibility of an all-Prague final is still alive after Slavia came from two goals down to defeat Vsetin 4-2 in the second semi. Vsetin still lead the series, however, by two to one.

Turning to football, and national team coach Josef Chovanec has received a boost with the news that one of the Czech Republic's most prolific exports Patrik Berger is back to competitive action. The attacking midfielder made his return to the English Premiership on Saturday in Liverpool's 2-0 win over the champions Manchester United. 'It was a great day for me,' said Berger after the match - the player had been out of action since November 4th with a serious knee injury.

The coach of Sparta Prague, Ivan Hasek, was in Athens at the weekend discussing the possibility of taking the vacant manager's job at Panathinaikos. With Sparta almost home and dry in the Gambrinus League, Hasek may feel that he needs a new challenge. Panathinaikos president Angelos Phillipides has declared that an appointment will be made before Easter on April 15th.

One Czech whose definitely bagged a job is Milan Macala. The former Saudi Arabia coach has been appointed to guide Oman through their remaining World Cup qualifying matches. Macela has a very good reputation in Arab states. He led Kuwait to Gulf Cup success in 1996 and in 1998 they were runners-up at the Asian Games in Bangkok.