Sports News

Sparta Prague - Brno, photo: CTK

In Sports News: after a poor start Sparta Prague are closing in on football league leaders Slovan Liberec, though Sparta's manager says it's too soon to get excited; Liberec defender Tomas Zapotocny says he's keen to leave the Czech league after receiving a record fine from the football association; Tomas Kaberle scores his first hat trick in ice hockey's NHL, while Jaromir Jagr leads the players' points table; and Katerina Neumannova begins her final season in cross country skiing.

Sparta putting pressure on league leaders Liberec

Sparta Prague - Brno,  photo: CTK
Things are getting interesting at the top of the Czech first division, with Sparta Prague in hot pursuit of leaders Slovan Liberec. Liberec, last season's champions, dropped two points at the weekend when they could only draw 0:0 with Zlin, though they remain in front with 27 points. But after a slow start this term Sparta are hot on their heels: they are now just two points off the pace, after beating Brno 2:0 at home. They've leapfrogged Mlada Boleslav into second place, after the latter lost 3:1 at home to Slavia Prague.

Sparta, the country's richest club, have yet to lose in the league since the appointment of coach Michael Bilek at the start of September. But he isn't getting too carried away with their good run.

"We wanted to create a position before the winter break in which we would have a chance of going in front in the second half of the season. That's still our position. But at the moment it's not a question of some real change - we'll see at the end of the season. I don't want to talk about it."

Zapotocny set to leave Czech league after receiving record fine

Off the field, Liberec's Tomas Zapotocny has received the biggest fine ever handed down by the Czech football association, after indicating that a team-mate had been offered a bribe ahead of a game against Mlada Boleslav. The defender, who has made two appearances for the Czech national team, has been ordered to pay 150,000 CZK (almost 7,000 USD) for "denigrating the name of the Czech FA". Zapotocny is so incensed by what he regards as an unjust punishment that he says this is his last season in the Czech league.

First NHL hat trick for Tomas Kaberle, while Jagr leads points table

Czech ice hockey star Tomas Kaberle notched up his first ever hat trick in the NHL on Saturday, helping his Toronto Maple Leafs to a 5:4 win over fierce rivals Montreal. Jaromir Jagr - who has 14 NHL hat tricks under his belt - has also been in the headlines: Jagr leads the players' points table after marking up a goal and three assists for New York Rangers in their 7:3 win over Phoenix Coyotes. The legendary Wayne Gretzky, now Phoenix boss, paid tribute to the Czech star after the game, saying Jagr was probably the best forward on the planet.

Neumannova begins final season

The great Czech cross country skier Katerina Neumannova started her last season on Saturday, coming 24th in the women's sprint in Dusseldorf. Neumannova, who is 33, may have been distracted during the race - immediately afterwards she rushed to Prague on a specially chartered jet to receive a state honour from the president.