In Sports News: Title seems Sparta’s to lose after leaders pull 10 points clear with 10 games to go; Lafata equals Siegl’s Czech league goals record but latter’s overall tally still looks unassailable; Plzeň refuse to throw in towel on domestic front as European exit looms; Sáblíková wins eighth speed skating World Cup but is too tired for World Championships.
It increasingly appears that the Czech soccer league title is Sparta Prague’s to lose. With only 10 games remaining, the leaders are a whopping 10 points in front after a 1:0 away victory over Příbram. However, Sparta had only won at Příbram three times in the last decade and failed to find the net on Saturday until the 80th minute, when captain David Lafata converted a penalty. Coach Vítězslav Lavička offered this assessment after the game.
“In my view we started well. Thanks to our activity we created a number of situations where we perhaps came close to scoring. But then it was as if the home side lost their diffidence. In the second half we were also active but they defended well and there was a constant chance they would catch us on the break. We suffered – we wanted it a lot, but it wasn’t easy.”
Lafata’s strike was his 133rd in the Czech league, equalling a record set by Sparta legend Horst Siegl. However, the 1990s goal machine notched up 176 goals in total if the Czechoslovak league is counted – a record that at present looks unassailable In any case, Lafata leads the goals table this season with 11; if he keeps finding the net, the former Jablonec forward could well become the league’s top scorer for the fourth season in a row.
Reigning champions Viktoria Plzeň fell further behind in second place when they could only manage a 0:0 draw with Slovácko on Sunday. However, forward Jan Rezek, who recently returned to the club after a spell in China, says the West Bohemians aren’t giving up just yet.
“We’re not throwing in the towel. We’re going to fight till the end, even though it won’t be easy, of course. Sparta are playing well. Also the fact they’ve been playing only one game a week all season means they have it easier. But that’s no excuse. I think everybody at Plzeň is proud we’ve been able to play in the cups… It’ll be hard, but we’ll fight.”
Actually Plzeň themselves are unlikely to have any European cup distractions after this week; they welcome Lyon on Thursday in the Europa League having lost 4:1 in the first leg of that round of 16 tie.
Martina Sáblíková has notched up yet another success with her eighth successive triumph in speed skating’s season-long long-distance World Cup. The Czech won the trophy by some distance after coming fourth in the 3000m in Heerenveen in the Netherlands on Saturday. The same venue will host the speed skating World Championships next week but the 26-year-old will not be in attendance; Sáblíková says she is exhausted after a season that has also seen her pick up one gold and one silver medal at the Winter Olympics.