Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK The top tier of Czech domestic football, the Gambrinus Liga, launched the spring part of the season over the weekend. After the winter break, Slavia Prague was in the lead with five points ahead of its city rival Sparta. Both top teams marked victories in the first spring round – Sparta beat Zlín 0:2 on Saturday, getting an away win over the Moravians for the first time in 13 years, while Slavia defeated České Budějovice 1:0 on Sunday, keeping the gap at five points. In other games of the 17th round of the Gamrinus Liga, the ambitious Brno, fifth after the winter break, lost 2:0 to Plzeň, which had been reinforced by Frenchman Ludovic Sylvestre, formerly of Sparta Prague.

Slavia Prague had actually played one game before the end of the winter break, when it faced England’s Tottenham Hotspur on Thursday in the first leg of a UEFA Cup last-32 tie; the Prague club lost 2:1 to the visiting side. After Tottenham’s Berbatov scored an early goal in the 4th minute, the English team had the game under control for much of the first half with Robbie Keane getting in another goal in the 30th minute. In the second half, Slavia improved their performance and managed to score the home team’s only goal after Slavia’s former goalkeeper Radek Černý, now in Spurs’ line-up, dropped the ball in front of Střihavka in the 69th minute. Slavia’s only scorer David Střihavka gives an account of what happened.

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK “I was caught in the melee in front of Černý’s goal; I thought he was going to bounce the ball behind him but fortunately it ended in front of me. I was tough on the ball and it worked. They had already played some games, while for us it was the first match of the year. We were too much on the defensive side in the first half; that was crucial.”

Lukáš Bauer, photo: CTKLukáš Bauer, photo: CTK In the world of cross-country skiing, a World Cup event was held in Liberec, North Bohemia, over the weekend, despite a dramatic lack of snow that had to be brought in by trucks from higher up in the Jizerské Mountains. As a result, the schedule of the event had to be restricted, with only two races in men’s and women’s categories. In the unusual 11.4 kilometre free individual on Saturday, Czech Republic’s Lukáš Bauer came in second, increasing his lead in the entire World Cup series. On Sunday, the Czech pair Bauer and Jakš finished seventh in the team sprint. After Saturday’s individual race, Lukáš Bauer said the Liberec track was a challenging one.

“The contour of the track did not seem to be that difficult; but as I said yesterday, combined with the quality of the snow it would be very demanding, and I was right. After the first two laps I was very exhausted; it was a struggle.”

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK In the sport of ice-hockey, the Czech O2 Extraliga saw the last but one round before the play-off at the weekend. Mountfield České Budějovice defeated Litvínov 2:0 and secured the first place in the regular season; this means the South Bohemian club will take part in the newly established Champions League along with the best European hockey teams. Both Třinec and Znojmo picked up the full three points and will not miss this year’s play-off, while there are three candidates – Plzeň, Kladno and Vítkovice – for the two remaining spots in the play-off. Only the final round later this week will determine which teams go on and for whom the season will be over.