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Season review: Czech Republic

Published: Wednesday 19 June 2013, 10.00CET
FC Viktoria Plzeň reclaimed the title they lost last season at the expense of AC Sparta Praha while FK Jablonec prevailed on penalties to take the cup in the Czech Republic.
by Ondřej Zlámal
from Prague
Season review: Czech Republic
Viktoria Plzeň players celebrate on their way to the title ©AFP/Getty Images
Published: Wednesday 19 June 2013, 10.00CET

Season review: Czech Republic

FC Viktoria Plzeň reclaimed the title they lost last season at the expense of AC Sparta Praha while FK Jablonec prevailed on penalties to take the cup in the Czech Republic.

FC Viktoria Plzeň clinched their second title on the final day of the 20th Czech First League season, pipping AC Sparta Praha who finished second with a two-point deficit.

It was clear from the first half of the campaign that the championship would go to one of Plzeň and Sparta, but with two games left it appeared a foregone conclusion as Pavel Vrba's Viktoria held a five-point lead. However, a home loss to FC Slovan Liberec gave Sparta hope, before a climactic victory at FC Hradec Králové got Plzeň over the line.

Defending champions Slovan had a miserable autumn, entering the winter break in ninth place, yet turned in the strongest showing in the spring. Nine straight wins took them to third spot and UEFA Europa League qualification. In the Czech Cup, FK Jablonec overcame FK Mladá Boleslav 5-4 on penalties to lift the trophy.

Champions: FC Viktoria Plzeň
Dethroned last term, Vrba's men returned the trophy to Plzen, learning lessons from 2011/12 when they carelessly threw away too many points. The side, who also got to the UEFA Europa League round of 16, were marshalled by experienced captain Pavel Horváth, providing the backbone along with fellow Czech internationals Vladimír Darida, David Limberský, Daniel Kolář, František Rajtoral and Václav Procházka.

Fast attacking football was key to Viktoria's success and helped them overcome some defensive mistakes which caused unnecessary damage. The title brings with it another chance to make the UEFA Champions League group stage, a platform the team reached in autumn 2011.

Cup final: FK Jablonec 2-2 FK Mladá Boleslav (aet, Jablonec win 5-4 on penalties)
Jablonec trainer Roman Skuhravý joined Czech Republic boss Michal Bílek as the second man to lift the Czech Cup as both player and coach. Trailing 2-1 at half-time, his substitutions heralded a turnaround for his side, with replacement Jan Kopic scoring a spectacular equaliser on 84 minutes. It was the same player who hit the decisive penalty in the shoot-out, which brought the trophy to the northern Bohemian town for just the second time.

European places*
FC Viktoria Plzeň – UEFA Champions League second qualifying round
AC Sparta Praha – UEFA Europa League second qualifying round
FC Slovan Liberec – UEFA Europa League second qualifying round
FK Jablonec – UEFA Europa League third qualifying round

*Subject to final confirmation from UEFA

©Getty Images

Václav Kadlec shone for Sparta

Player of the year: Václav Kadlec (AC Sparta Praha)
Named player of the year by daily newspaper Sport, the 21-year-old registered four goals in his final three games to finish with 14 for the season – an impressive tally considering he suffered a fractured skull in November. The forward also returned to the Czech Republic squad, and there was media speculation that his hot streak could attract interest from big-name European clubs.

One to watch: Vladimír Darida (FC Viktoria Plzeň)
After making his debut at UEFA EURO 2012 the midfielder has become a regular in the Czech Republic lineup. The 22-year-old plays at the heart of the champions' midfield alongside stalwart Horváth, adding value with his set pieces, clever passing and powerful shooting. A goal and an assist on the last day helped wrap up the title.

Surprise package: FK Dukla Praha
Their second season back among the elite proved another success, with Luboš Kozel's men even knocking on the door of the UEFA Europa League. A sixth-placed finish was their reward in the end, yet promising attacking football delivered by bright young players suggests more good things to come for the capital club.

Leading scorer: David Lafata, FK Jablonec/ AC Sparta Praha (20)

Relegated: SK Dynamo České Budějovice, FC Hradec Králové

Promoted: Bohemians Praha 1905, 1. SC Znojmo

Number: 620
The number of goals scored in the top flight this term, 15 fewer than last season's record-breaking haul.

Quote
"We always managed to move on from situations where we didn't do so well. The tremendous internal strength of the team and the club was plain to see. It kept us together and the experience we've acquired also served us well."
Plzeň coach Pavel Vrba after his side were crowned champions

Last updated: 19/06/13 9.14CET

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