Czech Republic win to keep Euro 2012 hopes alive

Posted on by SoccerPunter

The Czech Republic kept alive their hopes of reaching the Euro 2012 quarter-finals as they beat Greece 2-1 in their Group A clash on Tuesday.

Victory not only took the Czechs onto three points with a game to come against co-hosts Poland but was also revenge for their defeat by the Greeks in the Euro 2004 semi-finals.

The Greeks – who went on to win the Euro 2004 title – are stuck on just a point with Russia, who beat the Czechs 4-1 in their opener, to come.

The Czechs made a dream start scoring twice in the opening six minutes with Petr Jiracek and Vaclav Pilar scoring.

Greece threatened to get back into the match seven minutes into the second-half when Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech spilled the ball straight to Fanis Gekas and he tucked the ball away.

Czech coach Michal Bilek was delighted with the victory, though, not so happy with the second-half performance.

“The changes (to the starting line-up) proved useful, we played a great first half, controlled the game, we soon scored twice, the first half was great,” said Bilek.

“Tomas Rosicky picked up an injury and we missed his creative skills, we found it hard to create, we conceded a terribly stupid goal and then got under pressure.”

Jiracek was more relieved than ecstatic.

“We’ve made it, the goal was really important, and we’re very happy right now,” he said.

“After five minutes we were on top, the crowd pushed us forward, but then we fell apart in the second half and had to fight till the end.

“We mustn’t get too satisfied, we know we had to fight hard. Now we’ll focus on the last game against Poland which will be terribly important and we’ve got to handle that.”

The Czechs made a dream start as they took advantage of the out of sorts second choice Greek centreback pairing of Kostas Katsouranis and Kyriakos Papadopoulos, who had replaced the injured Avraam Padadopoulos and the suspended Socratis Papastathopoulos.

First Jiracek was picked out in the third minute by Thomas Hubschman with a superb ball over the top which the Wolfsburg dynamo ran on to and fired in a shot that gave Greek ‘keeper Costas Chalkias no chance.

Chalkias was at fault for the second goal three minutes later as he failed to cut out Theo Gebre Selassie’s ball from the byline and with the two Greek central defenders slow to react Pilar slid in to put the ball in the net for his second goal of the tournament.

Chalkias’s unhappy afternoon ended prematurely when he had to go off injured in the 22nd minute and was replaced by Michalis Sapikis.

Sapikis proved himself, though, as he made two fine stops in the first-half from Rosicky and Jiracek.

However, the second-half got off in the worst possible manner with Rosicky – one of the few players still in the side who played in the 2004 game – failing to appear as he was found to be suffering from an apparent Achilles tendon injury.

The Greeks heartened by the loss of the Czechs most influential player pressed for a goal.

They were rewarded when there was a rare error by Cech – another of the class of 2004 – as he collided with Tomas Sivok going for a cross spilled the ball and Fanis Gekas was on hand to gratefully tuck the ball into the net.

The Russians play co-hosts Poland, who have a point after a 1-1 draw with the Greeks, later on Tuesday.

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