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  Results & Reviews: Match 07


Czech Republic avoids stunning loss with pair of secoind-half goals

Milan Baros and substitute Marek Heinz punished two goalkeeping blunders with goals in the last 17 minutes on Tuesday to give the Czech Republic a face-saving 2-1 victory over Euro 2004 outsider Latvia.

Playing in their first major championship, the Latvians had threatened one of the biggest upsets in the history of the championship when Maris Verpakovskis tapped in from close range in the final minute of the first half, but couldn't hang on in another match played in stifling heat.

The Czechs threw on two extra forwards and had just three defenders when Baros rewarded a spell of non stop pressure with an equalizer in the 73rd minute after 'keeper Aleksandrs Kolinko's weak punch had landed at his feet.

And Heinz, the Czech league's leading scorer last season, fired the winner in the 85th with Kolinko well off his line after failing to get to a long through ball.

Group D 15 June 2004 1700 CET

Municipal, Aveiro Attendance 20,000


Baros 73
Heinz 85

Verpakovskis 45
Czech Republic (4-4-2) Cech; Grygera (Heinz 56), Ujfalusi, Bolf, Jankulovski; Galasek (Smicer 64), Poborsky, Rosicky, Nedved (c); Koller, Baros (Jiranek 87).
Latvia (4-4-2) Kolinko; Stepanovs, Zemlinskis, Blagonadezdins, Isakovs; Lobanovs (Rimkus 90), Astafjevs (c), Bleidelis, Rubins; Prohorenkovs (Laizans 71), Verpakovskis (Pahars 81).
Referee Gilles Veissiere (FRA)

"This match showed we can compete with top sides," said Latvia coach Aleksandrs Starkovs. "I'm sure we'll prove that again in four days' time against the Germans."

The hugely talented Czech captain Pavel Nedved of Juventus set up a series of chances in the first 20 minutes of the match played in 33 Celsius (93 Fahrenheit) heat at the Municipal Stadium.

In the 10th minute, Nedved's firmly hit shot was blocked by the diving Stepanovs. Then the Juventus midfielder slipped a ball inside to Marek Jankulovski whose low shot went across the face of the goal

At 2.03 (6-foot-9) the tallest player in the championship, Jan Koller was being marked by 1.93 meter (6-4) Stepanovs, who has just been released by English champion Arsenal, in one of the biggest confrontations on the field at the Municipal Stadium.

In the 21st minute, Borussia Dortmund's Tomas Rosicky cut inside and ran parallel to the goal for a few meters before firing in a low shot that 'keeper Kolinko pushed out. Then Karel Poborsky, famous for a wonder strike in the quarterfinal of Euro '96 against Portugal, skimmed the crossbar with a 20-meter shot.

Stepanovs made another diving block to keep out a low shot from Poborsky a minute before The Latvians took the lead.

Verpakovskis, who scored twice in the playoffs against Turkey, finished off a slick move in which Stepanovs had sent Andrejs Prohorenkovs down the left and the striker arrived to turn home the cross.

Czech coach Karel Bruckner then sent on striker Heinz for defender Zdenek Grygera early in the second half to try and snatch an equalizer.

A half chance fell to Baros with an hour gone when he chested down a long through ball from Poborsky but the Liverpool striker then fired over the top.

Then Poborsky created another chance with a fast run down the right. Although his cross missed Koller, Baros was unmarked at the far post but he pushed the ball wide from six meters.

With an attacking midfielder, Vladimir Smicer, now on for a defensive one, Tomas Galasek, it became all out attack for the Czechs. But it was almost 2-0 when Prohorenkovs, who set up the first, fired an angled shot that shaved the outside of the far post.

The Czechs thought they had leveled when Nedved powered in a low, left foot shot which appeared to be going in. But Kolinko dived low to his left to push the ball away with a top quality save.

But the Czech pressure finally told in the 73rd minute with an equalizer.

Poborsky set up the goal with a determined run on the right. He almost ran the ball out of play but recovered well to sent over another cross. Kolinko went from hero to villain with a poor punch and the ball came to Baros, who took his time before driving the ball home from 12 meters for his 17th goal in 26 games.

"I'm glad for the goal. If we had drawn this game, we would've had to win the other two," said Baros.

Kolinko was almost beaten again with eight minutes to go but a 25-meter shot from Heinz clipped the top of the crossbar. It was the Czechs 26th shot compared with six by the Latvians.

But the second goal came five minutes from the end and the Czechs, who also have to beat Germany and the Netherlands in Group D, were relieved to hear the final whistle.

"The second half was perfect," said Czech coach Karel Bruckner. "Better combination, better shooting, more vigor. We knew the match would be tough, but it was even tougher than expected."
- AP



  Group Standings

Group D

P W D L F A Pt
Czech Rep. 1 1 0 0 2 1 3
Latvia 1 0 0 1 1 2 0
Germany 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Netherlands 0 0 0 0 0 0 0


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  Match Stats

2 Goals 1
0 Halftime 1
13 Corners 3
6 Offsides 1
11 Fouls 20
0 Yellow cards 0
0 Red cards 0
21 Free kicks 17
12 Shots on target 3
17 Shots off target 5
4 Woodwork 0
1 Saves 4
0 GL Clearances 0
62% Possession 38%



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