Viktoria Plzeň reach Champions League

Pavel Vrba, Pavel Horváth, photo: CTK

Czech league titleholders Viktoria Plzeň have booked a spot in the Champions League this season after they defeated the Slovenian side Maribor 4:1 on aggregate in the competition’s final round of qualification. Plzeň have extended their respectable winning streak in the Champions League, advancing to the group stage for the second time in three years.

Goran Cvijanovic,  František Rajtoral,  photo: CTK
It took Viktoria Plzeň less than three minutes to find the net in the second leg of the Champions League’s final qualifier against Maribor on Wednesday night. The Czechs were passing the ball just past the half line when Plzeň captain Pavel Horváth saw František Rajtoral on the edge of Maribor’s penalty area, and lofted the ball to him. Rajtoral passed it to striker Stanislav Tecl on the left who swept it into the net.

Plzeň travelled to Maribor with a 3:1 advantage from the first leg a week ago, and it was up to the hosts to try and keep their hopes alive. Maribor pushed and took some shots at goal but the visitors were able to contain the home side’s attacks, securing a place in the lucrative Champion League’s group stage. Plzeň manager Pavel Vrba said choosing Tecl for the starting line-up worked out just fine.

Pavel Vrba,  Pavel Horváth,  photo: CTK
“We knew the hosts would have to open up their defence and that’s why we chose Stanislav Tecl who is very fast. We have to admit that between the 8th and 15th minutes, Maribor had some good opportunities. But we were lucky and managed to block their shots.

“We were well prepared and we were lucky. If I look at both games, we also played well, and we have advanced. We have also extended our winning streak which is a great success, and I’m glad we did it.”

Plzeň have an impressive record in Champions League qualification, having won all six ties this year and in their previous participation two years ago. This season, Viktoria beat Bosnia’s Žejlezničar Sarajevo, Estonia’s Nomme Kalju and Maribor – which was a deserved victory, according to Plzeň captain and playmaker, the 38-year-old Pavel Horváth.

“It’s fantastic. As far as drug testing goes, I was chosen for the sixth time in eight games so I think they don’t believe I can last an entire game on my own. But having advanced is wonderful, and deserved. We had a good advantage from the first leg, and here we scored from our first attack. Then we held out for some 10 minutes when the hosts had some good opportunities. But I think that we were the better team in the rest of the game.”

Vladimír Darida,  photo: CTK
Later on Thursday, Viktoria Plzeň will learn who they will face in the Champions League group stage. Manager Pavel Vrba said he would not mind playing Barcelona again as Plzeň fans deserved to see some top quality teams. But Viktoria Plzeň will miss one of their key players, midfielder Vladimír Darida. The 23-year-old Czech international has signed with Freiburg in the German Bundesliga for 4 million euros, the most expensive transfer in the history of the club.