In Sports News this Monday: Viktoria Plzeň edge closer to title with 12th win in row as Sparta falter; Nedvěd becomes ambassador of big-spending Chinese Super League; Plzeň recover to make it 2:2 with Sparta in Extraliga playoffs semifinals; and Jágr’s Florida reach playoffs in NHL.
Viktoria Plzeň are a step closer to lifting the Czech league title for the fourth time in five years after the West Bohemians overcame Jihlava 2:0 at home for their 12th win in a row. The reigning champions had the perfect motivation going into Saturday evening’s game after second-placed Sparta Prague suffered a surprise away defeat at Slovácko earlier in the day.
Those results leave Sparta, who have a game to the good, nine points behind with seven rounds to go this season.
Daniel Kolar, who scored Plzeň’s second against Jihlava, said he and his teammates weren’t counting any chickens.
“We’re glad that we have such a lead. But it’s not the end yet and there are still a lot of points at stake. We’re taking it positively but of course we know that there’s a very difficult road ahead of us.”
Sparta were missing goalkeeper David Bičík and a number of other regular starters in their loss at Slovácko. But midfielder Ladislav Krejčí said they still should have done better.
“We’re not going to use the line-up as an excuse. There are 20 of us in the first-team squad and we should be capable of standing in for one another. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for us.”
Krejčí and Co. will be in action again on Thursday, when Sparta face Villareal in Spain in the first round of their Europa League quarter-final tie.
Probably the greatest Czech player of the modern age, Pavel Nedvěd now has a new role as ambassador for the Chinese Super League, a position he takes over from David Beckham. Clubs in China have been making eye-catching signings and Nedvěd – a one-time European Player of the Year – says the only way is up for the sport in world’s most populous state.
“It will take time – because you can’t just create football overnight – but they don’t have any problems economically. Because there are a lot of them – they’ve got the quantity and they will definitely choose from the quality. So I think they need to be reckoned with in the future.”
The playoffs in Czech ice hockey’s Extraliga are at the semi-final stage. On Sunday evening, Plzeň came from behind to beat Sparta 2:1 and tie their series 2:2; in the other series regular season winners Liberec are 2:0 up against Mladá Boleslav with their next duel on Monday evening, after the recording of our programme.
Across the pond Jaromír Jágr’s Florida Panthers are assured of a place in the NHL playoffs. Their Atlantic Division rivals Boston lost to Chicago on Sunday, meaning they can no longer catch Florida, who beat Montreal Canadiens the previous evening. Also in the NHL Czech forward Jakub Voráček ended a 10-game barren spell, though despite his goal Philadelphia still lost to Pittsburgh.
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