Czech Republic manager Michal Bilek’s Euro 2012 preparations got off to a winning start on Saturday evening as his depleted Czech side overcame Israel with some late drama.
Goals from Milan Baros and substitute David Lafata gave the Republic a 2-1 victory, with Etey Shechter netting for Israel.
Lafata’s third goal for his country in his 17th match in Czech colours meant that those who had backed a victory for the Euro 2012 finalists, at 4/5, would have been pleased with their decision.
Baros was the stand-in captain as Tomas Rosicky missed out with a calf injury. And Baros certainly led his country well, winning a penalty in the 17th minute before converting it himself.
The win, their fourth in five matches, should give the Republic more belief that they can qualify from Group A, which they are priced at 6/5 to do.
The Republic could have doubled their lead shortly afterwards, only for Roman Hubnik’s header to come back off the post. The Czechs regretted that miss by half-time when they went in level thanks to Shechter’s header in the closing seconds of the first 45 minutes.
Daniel Kolar and debutant Vladimir Darida came closest for Bilek’s side in the second half, with Kolar volleying to produce a top save from the Israeli keeper before Darida’s 25-yard shot hit the post in the 85th minute.
The match was still level at 1-1 when the 90 minutes were up, but Lafata stepped up to give his side the win in the fourth minute of injury time. Lafata was the Czech League’s top scorer last season with 25 goals and is given odds of 150/1 to be top scorer in Poland and Ukraine.
The win, their fourth in five matches, should give the Republic more belief that they can qualify from Group A, which they are priced at 6/5 to do. Any new customer to bwin.com who uses their free £25 bet to back the Czechs to qualify from the group stages would win £55 if the Republic do make it to the quarter-finals.
The Republic have one final game before kicking off their Euro 2012 campaign against Russia – a friendly back in Prague against Hungary this coming Friday.
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