Talk about a fairytale ending: Sparta Prague went into a crucial Champions League football game against Lazio on Tuesday needing to win to advance to the knock-out stage of the competition. They also needed group leaders Chelsea to beat Besiktas, but 15 minutes from full-time both games were scoreless. After both sides had been denied by the woodwork at Letna stadium, Sparta sent on their perennial nearly-man Marek Kincl, ten minutes from the end. Three minutes into time added on, Sparta were awarded a free kick outside the Lazio box. Captain Karel Poborsky chipped the free right onto the head of the advancing Kincl, who put it in the net with the very last touch of the game. When the news came in that Chelsea had beaten Besiktas 2:0, Letna stadium erupted - Sparta had made it to the knock-out stage of the Champions League! At the post-game news conference Marek Kincl looked like the cat that got all the cream:
"For every footballer a game like that is a kind of dream. I've always imagined that some day I would play in such a game, when I would get a goal like that and decide everything. It's a footballer's dream and tonight I fulfilled that dream. It was a great feeling; I was happy and emotional at the same time. It's hard to describe the feeling."
"Everybody wants to play in the Champions League and everybody wants to get as far as possible, and if you don't get there it's quite disappointing. We had more chances than they did, but they scored a goal and that's what it's all about in football, to score goals. If you don't score goals then it's hard to win the game, isn't it?"
Miroslav Beranek this week stepped down as manager of Slavia Prague, exactly two years to the day after taking over at the club. He is expected to be replaced by Liberec trainer Josef Csaplar. The first half of the season did not go well for Slavia, and a large question mark remains over if and when the club will get a new stadium.
Sparta The Czech ice hockey Extraliga's runaway leaders Pardubice were beaten for the first time in 16 games on Tuesday, going down 2:1 to Sparta Prague; that result, which owed a lot to veteran goaltender Petr Briza, saw Sparta advance to third in the table. Slavia Prague remain in second place, after a 6:2 win over Pilsen.
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