Tomáš Pekhart's form in front of goal has negated any fears the SK Slavia Praha faithful may have had for their 1. Liga title hopes after the departure of eleven-goal leading scorer Tomáš Necid in January.
Pekhart has scored the winner in each of Slavia's last two league fixtures to preserve their comfortable 13-point lead over city rivals AC Sparta Praha at the summit. The 19-year-old striker returned to the club from Tottenham Hotspur FC on an 18-month loan during the winter transfer window and has immediately set about ensuring the departure of his former team-mate, who joined PFC CSKA Moskva, did not undermine Slavia's title push.
Standing almost two metres tall, Pekhart began the season on the substitutes' bench in England's second tier with Southampton FC, scoring only once in nine league appearances. Just two of those were from the start but since returning home Pekhart has found his range and left two defenders trailing in his wake when scoring an 87th-minute winner against FK Jablonec on 15 March, a goal which showed there is more facets to his game than his aerial prowess. "I am not slow and the ball is no obstruction for me," said Pekhart, who came on only six minutes earlier.
Having appeared as substitute in his four matches since returning to Slavia, coach Karel Jarolím rewarded Pekhart with a place in the starting XI against FC Zlín on Sunday, a move which proved inspired as the teenager scored the only goal after 53 minutes. "I am glad that I finally finished our goal drought but I could have scored more. At least one of my chances was a clear-cut one," he said.
The reborn striker was, however, keen play down his status as the club's saviour and rejects comparisons between him and his former team-mate with whom he reached the 2006 UEFA European Under-17 Championship, losing on penalties to Russia in the final after both scored in a 2-2 draw, Pekhart equalising deep into injury time. "
We have been best friends since we were trainees together at Slavia but I am not Necid – I am Pekhart."
He left for Tottenham in 2006 but never made an outing for the Premier League club and suffered further frustration on loan at Southampton where his appearances were restricted by injury. "He learnt a lot at Tottenham despite only playing for the reserve side," said Czech Republic U21 coach Jakub Dovalil, who was in charge of the U17 team in 2006. "He has matured now." While Necid prepares for the forthcoming FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Slovenia and Slovakia, Pekhart is part of the U21 squad which will play two friendlies in Egypt. He could be back in there in September contesting the FIFA U-20 World Cup – maybe, just maybe alongside his best friend.
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