Sverkos goal gives Czech 1-0 win

Vaclav Sverkos gets Czech Republic off to fine start in the first match of Euro 2008, his right footer siking hosts Switzerland 1-0 on Saturday.

updated: June 15, 2008 17:57 IST
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Basel (Switzerland):

Vaclav Sverkos scored his first goal for the Czech Republic in a 1-0 win over co-host Switzerland in the opening match of the European Championship on Saturday.

Sverkos, making only his fourth appearance for the national team, scored from 16 metres with the outside of his right foot in the 71st minute, shortly after coming on as a substitute.

Switzerland also lost influential captain and record scorer Alexander Frei when he injured his right knee. The 28-year-old striker was taken off the field in tears shortly before halftime. He returned to the bench on crutches.

Sverkos ran onto Tomas Galasek's header after beating the offside trap and made no mistake with a cool finish to the left of Switzerland goalkeeper Diego Benaglio.

His goal saved the Czech Republic from an otherwise poor performance that included long stretches of Swiss control.

Switzerland missed a chance to equalise in the 80th minute. Tranquillo Barnetta's low shot was stopped by Czech Republic goalkeeper Petr Cech after Tomas Ujfalusi appeared to handle the ball in the area. Johan Vonlanthen got the loose ball but his shot hit the crossbar, and the ball was cleared.

"I actually jumped against the ball and the ball hit my hand," Ujfalusi said. "I couldn't do anything about it."

Before the late drama, there had been few clear-cut scoring chances, with the youthful Swiss lacking a cutting edge in front of goal and the experienced Czechs happy to soak up pressure and look for chances on the counterattack.

Perhaps it was an ominous sign that Switzerland had not played a competitive match in two years, since being eliminated by Ukraine in the second round of the World Cup on penalty kicks after two hours of scoreless play.

But the Czech Republic, known in previous tournaments for its attacking football, also started defensively, with five in the midfield, and record scorer Jan Koller up front.

A defensive mistake led to Switzerland's first chance. Frei stole the ball off Jan Polak in midfield, and the Swiss record holder with 35 international goals played a quick one-two with strike partner Marco Streller, but shot wide from 20 meters.

Switzerland continued to push forward with its youthful midfield -- all of whom are under the age of 24 -- mostly through Valon Behrami down the right and Gokhan Inler up the middle. Behrami shot straight at Cech from 25 meters before Inler had a low shot from the edge of the box also saved.

"This was not our best," Czech Republic coach Karel Bruckner said.

The Czech Republic had no clear scoring chances in the first half. It forced one save from the Switzerland goalkeeper in the 14th minute, after defender Zdenek Grygera's heel pass sent David Jarolim into space on the right.

Jarolim's cross was deflected by a head on its way to goal, but Benaglio parried it to safety.

In the 21st minute, Switzerland had its first good opportunity. Benaglio's long clearance reached Frei after evading the entire Czech Republic defense, but Cech rushed out of his goal to make a strong save with his feet.