Current Affairs Plzeň’s last-gasp qualification for Europa League dream send-off for Vrba
There was a fairytale night for Czech soccer on Tuesday night when the country’s title-holders Viktoria Plzeň kept their European campaign alive with a dramatic home win over CSKA Moscow. What’s more, the Champions League game was the perfect send-off for the manager who steered them into the competition, Pavel Vrba.
Viktoria Plzeň had never won the league until two years ago. But under manager Pavel Vrba the club lifted the title in 2011 and again this year – and on both occasions also reached the prestigious and lucrative Champions League.
Vrba’s achievements and swashbuckling style led the Czech FA to headhunt him for the post of national team boss. But his final game in charge of Plzeň on Tuesday provided the perfect send-off.
Given that their Champions League group also featured the mighty Bayern Munich and Manchester City, Plzeň were clearly going to be to duking it out with CSKA Moscow for third spot and a place in the second-tier Europa League.
Plzeň lost 3:2 in Moscow but the two away goals stood them in good stead. As neither club took any points from Bayern or City, the West Bohemians would advance if they beat CSKA 1:0, 2:1 or by a two-goal margin.
After an even first hour, hope began to fade for Plzeň’s vociferous fans when the Russians took the lead. Ten minutes later, however, the home side pulled one back through Daniel Kolář, setting up a dramatic finish. And that is just what ensued, with Tomáš Wágner finding the net in the 90th minute to give Plzeň a 2:1 win and provide a real Hollywood ending.
Goal scorer Daniel Kolář said it was a night to remember.
“Of course it was wonderful. The atmosphere before the game was one of great expectation. For the last 10 days we’ve felt that people really believed in us. I think for the fans that were here tonight, and above all for the trainer, it was a wonderful end to his time here. And for those of us who are staying we have something to look forward to in the spring.”
The 49-year-old Vrba was emotional after his side’s thrilling victory, stripping down to a t-shirt and doing a head over heels on the pitch at Štruncovy sady.
“It was an amazing end. It will be remembered in Plzeň for a long time and I will remember it for the rest of my life. I’m glad we managed to get Plzeň into the spring part of European competition. When the situation was tough the players didn’t give up. On the contrary, they told me they’d give more and in the end they were rewarded with two goals. Naturally, I couldn’t be more satisfied at this moment.”
Vrba will be presented as Czech team coach later this week. But his transformation of Viktoria Plzeň, and occasions like Tuesday night, will no doubt live long in the memory in West Bohemia.