Sports News

Sparta - Vitkovice, photo CTK

Liberec have gone three points ahead as the football season draws to a dramatic close. Several young players have been called up for friendly against Greece. In ice hockey, Sparta Prague are close to victory in the Extraliga play-offs and former international coach Ivan Hlinka is considering taking up a post in Russia. Ian Willoughby has all those stories and more in Sports News.

Liberec three points ahead as football season draws to dramatic close

As the football season draws to a close, many of Europe's leagues titles are close run things and it's no different here in the Czech Republic. Champions Sparta Prague's lead looked unassailable at the start of the year, and many would have expected them to win their sixth title in a row. Now - after a run of poor results - the biggest club in the country are a full three points behind the far less glamorous Liberec, and an upset is a real possibility. On Monday Liberec, who - don't forget - got to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup, turned out against Jablonec knowing that a win would put them three points ahead. Did they blow it? No chance. Jan Nezmar put Liberec ahead in the 35th minute and when Martin Petras of Jablonec scored an own goal five minutes later the game was effectively over. Jiri Stajner got one more in the 90th minute for a little icing on the cake.

Stajner is the top scorer in the Czech league with 14 goals. Liberec's UEFA Cup run provided a shop window for his considerable talents and a move to Germany's Hannover had been agreed. German football is currently in crisis however, following the collapse of the company which owns the rights to show football on TV, and there is now a question mark over where Jiri Stajner will play next season.

Brueckner calls up young players for Greece friendly

In the more immediate future, Stajner is in the Czech international squad to face Greece in an away friendly next week. Coach Karel Brueckner is evidently looking to the future - several older players have been left out to make way for youngsters from the Czech Under 21 squad. Among those called up was 18-year-old Stepan Vachousek of Slavia Prague, who said he thought he was having his leg pulled when he first heard he was in the squad.

Sparta Prague close to victory in ice hockey Extraliga play-offs

Sparta - Vitkovice,  photo CTK
In ice hockey Sparta Prague are just one victory away from being Extraliga champions. They took a 2:1 lead in the play-offs final series on Wednesday night when they hammered Vitkovice 7:0, with four of those goals coming in the first 19 minutes. The next game in the series takes place on Friday.

Czechs beat Slovakia twice in two days in ice hockey friendlies

The Czech international team have been taking on their old countrymen the Slovaks in friendlies. The Czech Republic beat Slovakia 5:1 in the Czech city of Olomouc on Tuesday. The next night they travelled to Martin in Slovakia, where they beat the hosts 2:0.

Hlinka bound for Russia?

Former Czech international coach Ivan Hlinka is considering taking up a coaching position in Russia. Hlinka, who led the Czech Republic to victory in the 1998 Winter Olympics, said earlier in the week that he was inclined to reject an offer from the club Omsk. However, after a visit to Russia, he is evidently leaning towards accepting the offer. Hlinka, who was sacked by the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier in the season, said he was impressed by the level of interest in ice hockey in Russia. He is set to announce his decision on Sunday.