Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Czech Republic & Slovakia September 2016

Two second level matches in the Czech Republic plus England’s visit to Slovakia.

Based in Ostrava I spent one day taking in the local sights which range from an impressive new shopping centre to a disused coal mine.
Aside from those delights the local museum featured the historical background of the region plus a feature on one William Shakespeare.

Perhaps the man from Stratford would also have enjoyed my evening meal of pizza and Lambrusco rosso (mead and roast beef were not on the menu)

3rd September 2016  Trinec 2 Vitkovice 1  Czech FNL  730 (c. 12 away)

It needed an early start to make it to Trinec for this 10.15am kickoff and I only just got there in time to see the players entering the pitch.
The home side play in a one-sided ground featuring a single stand that comfortably held those present.
Next door you could see the previous, larger traditional stadium.
On the pitch Trinec were two up within 18 minutes thanks to a pair of headers.
And it looked like they would win easily but gradually Vitkovice had more play and, after some useful left wing crosses, Vanek curled in a reply.

So 2-1 at the break.

The visitors made some changes after the interval and they generally edged the possession but never really got close to levelling.
The match drifted towards a home win without significant incident.

Afterwards I made the fairly long walk back to the station admiring the massive steel works that dominates the centre along the way.

3rd September Frydek-Mistek 2 Prostejov 2  FNL  1,270

Then by train on to Frydek-Mistek for the second game of the day.

This one had a lot more incident.
Firstly, after missing a good chance, Prostejov went ahead when David Strombach decisively converted a penalty after a player had been brought down.

But F-M responded immediately after Hykel forced home a left wing cross.
However on 37 minutes the visitors were back in front as Strombach drove in his second following a throw in.

Prostejov had taken their chances and deserved their half time advantage.

Into the second half and on comes Peter Nworah. Clearly wanting to make an impact the Nigerian chased back to make a tackle and was unluckily booked.
Unfortunately he argued the point and immediately received another card resulting in a brief ten minute cameo appearance.

So F-M battled with ten men though the visitors evened up the numbers by also having a man dismissed late on.
Then we had the dramatic conclusion.

With the home goalie up for a corner Kofron mishandled the ball and it eventually broke to Willweber who joyously drove in the added time equaliser.
2-2 it ended and it was somewhat tough for the lowly placed visitors who stay near the bottom of the table.

Back, by train, in Ostrava I settled for some simple refreshment after another hot day.

The following (Sunday) morning I got the early train on to Bratislava.

4th September Slovakia 0 England 1  World Cup qualifier  18,111 (c. 1700 away)

From Bratislava it takes around 45 minutes to get to Trnava.
Where England began their campaign on the road to Russia 2018.

Beforehand we had pre-game drinks and ice cream in the pleasant central area followed by a short stroll to the Arena for the inevitable security checks.

Though it was a new regime off the pitch it looked very similar on it.
But at least Sam Allardyce was more animated than many of the recent England coaches even though his players often seem to lack urgency.

However at this stage an away win against arguably the most difficult group opponent is enough.
Obviously the outcome was helped by the rashness of Martin Skrtel who got himself dismissed early in the second period.
But even before that Slovakia had threatened little, just one dangerous cross after an error by Danny Rose.

Otherwise England mostly controlled possession and when losing it usually worked hard to retrieve the ball.
The problem was doing something effective with it.

But eventually pressure told, Lallana hit the post and we were unlucky to see a goal disallowed.
Just when I was drifting towards the exit the ball reached Lallana on the left and he made space to drive in a shot that probably should have been saved.
It was his first ever England goal and a very timely one at that.

So lucky England and lucky ‘big Sam’.
But better to be lucky than good it is said.

A familiar pattern then - easy qualification then weak exit at the finals ?

Back in Bratislava it was starting to cool down with some light rain.

More followed the next day as I travelled home via Vienna.

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