Czech football fans rarely get to see a game like Saturday's top-of-the-table clash between league leaders Banik Ostrava and Sparta Prague. Letna stadium was packed to the rafters and the 5,000 Ostrava fans who travelled to the capital certainly made themselves heard; then again, they had more reason to cheer, because even the staunchest fan would have to admit Ostrava were fortunate to go home with a point. Sparta piled on the pressure throughout the game, and were unlucky to say the least to go 1:0 down through a Petr Drozd goal after half an hour. While it seemed inevitable that Sparta would score, they didn't find the net until 15 minutes from time, when Tomas Jun headed home following a flash of brilliance from Karel Poborsky which the great Johann Cruyff would have been proud of. And 1:1 is how it remained, largely thanks to Ostrava keeper Jan Lastuvka, who was surely man of the match. That result means the as-yet-unbeaten Ostrava remain six points clear of the title-holders. However, Sparta striker Tomas Jun says he believes the Prague club can close the gap.
"There are two rounds left before the winter break and then we have the whole of the second half of the season and we can get back into it. I don't think Ostrava's luck will hold till the end of the season, not every game will go their way. And I hope our luck turns and we can pull ahead of them."
Olomouc beat Brno 3:1, Teplice scored in the final minute to draw 1:1 with Jablonec and, right after their first win in three months, Viktoria Zizkov lost 4:0 at Synot, with three of those goals coming from former Liberec striker Jan Nezmar.
Several Czech players made their mark around Europe at the weekend. Udinese's Marek Jankulovski netted a penalty against Juventus, who are said to be very keen to sign him. In England, Patrik Berger scored for Portsmouth, and Germany's Bundesliga saw goals from Dortmund's Jan Koller, Hannover's Jiri Stajner and - for the second weekend in a row - Vaclav Sverkos of Borussia Moenchengladbach. Let's hope Sverkos's form continues next weekend, when the Czech Under 21s take on Switzerland in their first Euro 2004 play-off.
Former Sparta Prague manager Jaroslav Hrebik has - after over a year out of work - taken over as manager of Dinamo Moscow, continuing the exodus from Czech football to the Russian league.
Next ice hockey, and the Czech Republic have finished second in the Karjala Cup, which is the second competition of the Euro Hockey Tour. After overcoming hosts Sweden on Thursday, the Czechs were beaten 5:1 by Finland on Saturday, in one of their worst performances in recent years. Coach Slavomir Lener had more to smile about on Sunday, though, when his charges beat Russia 3:2, after Roman Malek - only called up as a replacement for the injured Jiri Trvaj - confirmed his return to form with a great save during a penalty shoot-out.
The Czech Republic's best known cross country race - the Velka Kunraticka - was held for the 70th time in Prague's Kunraticky forest on Sunday. One competitor, 74-year-old Viktor Trkal, completed the race for the 55th time and said it was his last year. Among the other runners, in what is not the most serious of events, were Prime Minsiter Vladimir Spidla and MP Jaromir Schling.
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