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Season review: Czech Republic

Published: Monday 20 June 2011, 11.31CET
A blend of wise old heads and willing youngsters saw FC Viktoria Plzeň finesse their way to a first title while a penalty shoot-out handed the Czech Cup to FK Mladá Boleslav.
by Ladislav Josef
from Prague
Season review: Czech Republic
Pavel Horváth helped steer Plzeň to their first Czech title ©Getty Images
Published: Monday 20 June 2011, 11.31CET

Season review: Czech Republic

A blend of wise old heads and willing youngsters saw FC Viktoria Plzeň finesse their way to a first title while a penalty shoot-out handed the Czech Cup to FK Mladá Boleslav.

FC Viktoria Plzeň's fifth-placed finish in 2009/10 was the best in their history, but the club blew that milestone out of the water with a maiden title to mark their centenary in style. Pavel Vrba's side finished a point clear of defending champions AC Sparta Praha, who they beat home and away, but their final points total of 69 is higher than any Czech champions have achieved since Sparta's 76 in 1999/00.

Champions: FC Viktoria Plzeň
Vrba won the Slovakian title as coach of MŠK Žilina in 2007, but topped that achievement with a Plzeň team composed of youngsters and players deemed surplus to requirements at other clubs. An attacking mentality endeared them to local fans, and they never relinquished top spot after making a fearsome start to the season. They tailed off a little in the spring, but Vrba said: "It's a great result because before the season hardly anybody believed we could win it."

Cup final: FK Mladá Boleslav 1-1 SK Sigma Olomouc (aet, Mladá Boleslav win 4-3 on penalties)
Ivo Táborský cancelled out Tomáš Hořava's opener for Sigma, 17 minutes from time, but it was three shoot-out saves from goalkeeper Miroslav Miller that gave Mladá Boleslav the cup in Jihlava. It was no small achievement for a side that dismissed their coach, Karel Stanner, in the week leading up to the final following a run of five straight league defeats. Sporting director Ladislav Minář deputised for the showpiece.

European places
FC Viktoria Plzeň – UEFA Champions League second qualifying round
FK Mladá Boleslav – UEFA Europa League third qualifying round
AC Sparta Praha – UEFA Europa League third qualifying round
FK Jablonec – UEFA Europa League play-offs second qualifying round

Player of the year: Pavel Horváth (FC Viktoria Plzeň)
Named league player of the season, the 36-year-old Horváth was also runner-up to Petr Čech in the vote for his nation's top footballer of 2010/11. That was a huge vindication for the one-time Sporting Clube de Portugal and Galatasaray AŞ playmaker, who was released by Sparta in 2008. He led Plzeň's title charge, scoring eight and setting up many more, and concluded: "The past two seasons with Plzeň have been the best of my life. Winning the league with Plzeň is my greatest achievement."

One to watch: Léonard Kweuke (AC Sparta Praha)
Acclaimed as the nation's best newcomer and best foreign player in the end of season awards, Cameroonian striker Kweuke scored 14 goals in his first season in the Czech Republic, forging a fine partnership with Wilfried Bony before the Ivorian's winter move to Dutch side Vitesse. Seven goals in the last eight games of the season almost snatched the title for Sparta.

Surprise package: Bohemians 1905
One of only three sides to beat Plzeň in the league this season, promoted Bohemians shone and finished sixth despite being unable to play at their Doliček Stadium, which is not top-flight standard. Fans have helped resurrect the club, which was declared bankrupt in 2005, but things may be tougher next season, with coach Pavel Hoftych off to Slovakia to coach FC Spartak Trnava.

Leading scorer: David Lafata, FK Jablonec (19)

Number: 11
A devastating run of 11 straight wins from the second to 12th rounds laid the foundations for Plzeň's title charge.

Relegated: FC Zbrojovka Brno, FK Ústí nad Labem

Promoted: FC Dukla Praha, FC Viktoria Žižkov

Quote
"Some of our players weren't good enough for other sides, but they showed how well they can play here."
Plzeň coach Pavel Vrba hails his previously unheralded players

Last updated: 08/07/11 16.47CET

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