Czechs beat Montenegro 2-0 in Euro playoffs

The Czech Republic took a big step toward qualifying for its

fifth straight European Championship by beating Montenegro 2-0 on

Friday in the first leg of their playoffs for a spot at next year’s

tournament in Poland and Ukraine.

Vaclav Pilar opened the scoring after collecting a smart through

pass from captain Tomas Rosicky in the 63rd minute before firing a

right-foot shot from 20 meters that gave goalkeeper Mladen Bozovic

no chance to save.

It was the first international goal for the 23-year-old Viktoria

Plzen midfielder in his fifth match for his country.

Tomas Sivok headed in his third in the national jersey in injury

time from Rosicky’s free kick.

”I’m glad for the win,” Pilar said. ”That’s what we wanted to

achieve. We scored twice and what’s important, we didn’t concede a

goal.”

The second leg is scheduled for Tuesday in Podgorica, the

capital of Montenegro.

”It’s just halftime,” Czech coach Michal Bilek warned. ”I’m

satisfied with our performance but we have to repeat it

again.”

The Czechs hope to maintain a record of reaching every European

Championship since Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and

Slovakia in 1993

Montenegro, seeking to qualify for its first Euros since

independence in 2006, held England to a 0-0 draw at Wembley in

qualifying but was under pressure throughout and failed to create a

surprise this time.

”We didn’t play (like) we wanted to,” Montenegro coach Branko

Brnovic said. ”We still have one more chance. It will be tough

because we need to win by three goals. But I remain an

optimist”

The Czechs failed to capitalize on its first-half dominance with

Petr Jiracek wasting a clear chance to put the host ahead in the

34th minute. Rosicky showed his playmaking qualities, starting a

fluent move in the middle of the field before passing for Tomas

Pekhart.

Pekhart then headed the ball to Jiracek, who had only goalkeeper

Mladen Bozovic to beat from 10 meters.

Jaroslav Plasil then tested the Montenegro ‘keeper with a low

long-range drive after the Montenegro defense failed to clear

Rosicky’s free kick.

Striker Jan Rezek just missed the target from close range after

Theodor Gebre Selassie broke down the right

At the other end, Savo Pavicevic crossed for Mirko Vucinic to

fire a volley just over the bar in the 16th as the visitors tried

to surprise the Czechs with fast counterattacks.

As the Czechs mounted pressure, Daniel Pudil and Rosicky had

their consecutive shots blocked in the 30th as the Montenegro

defense held firm.

One minute into the second half, Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech made

a diving save to deny Dejan Damjanovic and then palmed away Simon

Vukcevic’s curling shot a minute later as the visitors went on

attack after the break.

Cech, who already wears a head guard, wore a protective mask as

well after he had his nose broken in Saturday’s 1-0 win over

Blackburn in the Premier League. He was cleared to play a day

before the match at the Sparta Prague stadium

”It was something different for me,” Cech said. ”It was not

absolutely perfect but I was satisfied with the mask. … It’s an

excellent point of departure for us. It’s not over yet but I hope

we’ll succeed.”

”Petr showed what he is capable of,” Bilek said. ”He superbly

solved the dangerous chances.”

In the 70th minute, Sivok had his close-range header

blocked.

Peckhart failed to exploit a blunder from Bozovic 10 minutes

before the end, when the goalkeeper kicked the ball straight at his

head, leaving him with an empty goal. The Nuremberg striker again

failed to score from close range in the final minute.

Lineups:

Czech Republic: Petr Cech, Theodor Gebre Selassie, Michal

Kadlec, Tomas Sivok, Daniel Pudil, Jan Rezek (Zdenek Pospech, 81),

Tomas Rosicky, Jaroslav Plasil, Petr Jiracek, Vaclav Pilar (Daniel

Kolar, 90), Tomas Pekhart (David Lafata, 90).

Montenegro: Mladen Bozovic, Savo Pavicevic, Miodrag Dzudovic,

Stefan Savic, Milan Jovanovic, Milorad Pekovic (Elsad Zverotic,

80), Nikola Drincic, Dejan Damjanovic (Vladimir Bozovic, 61), Simon

Vukcevic (Andrija Delibasic, 89), Stevan Jovetic, Mirko

Vucinic.