Bratislava was the venue on Wednesday night for a very keenly anticipated soccer game between former federal partners Slovakia and the Czech Republic. It was the first time the two countries had met for several years and there was a lot to play for, as both teams bid to reach the 2008 European Championships. The atmosphere was electric, and friendly, for the match, which the Czech Republic won 3:0.
Since the draw was made for the Euro 2008 qualifiers, fans in both the Czech Republic and Slovakia had been looking forward with great excitement to the two country's first competitive clash in nine years.
It seemed set up for quite an even contest. Following the retirement of players like Pavel Nedved and Karel Poborsky, the Czech team is in a period of transition. Slovak football, meanwhile, is on the up: Slovakia reached the World Cup playoffs and a number of their players are now with famous European clubs.
But it didn't take long on Wednesday night for the Czech Republic to show their superiority and experience, as they went ahead through a Libor Sionko goal after just ten minutes. Sionko scored again ten minutes later, before providing an assist for Jan Koller's third, as the Czechs won 3:0 in one of their best displays for some time.
Here's what man-of-the-match Libor Sionko had to say after the game.
"Of course the game went really well for me. I'm not a typical striker, I'm more of a midfield player. Things didn't work out for the Slovak team...3:0, that's a big gap. The fans were fantastic and I'm extremely glad that so many came and spurred us on. Both countries' fans were great - it was a joy to play in such an atmosphere."
Libor Sionko has been a peripheral player for the Czech Republic. His great performance in Bratislava came hot on the heels of his two assists against Wales on Saturday, with both goals coming from debutant David Lafata. One of the team's most experienced members, Jan Koller, praised the impact of the "new" players.
"I'm very glad that the guys have adapted as they have. David Lafata decided the game against Wales, Marek Kulic had a great match. Libor Sionko has been in the squad for longer...he had his fingers in all the goals we've scored in our last two games. That's good to see after the departure of Nedved and Poborsky - it's great that we have players to replace them."
So two Euro 2008 qualifiers, two wins - not a bad start to Tomas Rosicky's career as Czech captain. He was all smiles after Wednesday's game.
"It's pleasant, definitely, though as yet it doesn't mean anything - the qualification process is a long one. Of course, our start has gone as we would have wished. But like I say, the journey ahead of us is still long."
The Czechs have two more Euro qualifiers this year, against San Marino at home on October 7 and against Ireland in Dublin four days later.
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