Czech Rep beat Latvia 2-1

Czech Republic avoided an upset when they came from a goal down to beat debutants Latvia 2-1 in Aveiro in group D of the 2004 European Cup.

updated: February 25, 2007 10:07 IST
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Milan Baros and substitute Marek Heinz punished two goalkeeping blunders with goals in the last 17 minutes today 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 17 minutes from the end to 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. "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 metre (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 metres 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 strike. 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. Nedved had a deflected shot saved before Poborsky hit the outside of the post with a powerful rising shot from 20 metres. 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 metres. (AP)