AC Sparta Praha 3-0 FC Torpedo Kutaisi
AC Sparta Praha have taken a giant step towards a UEFA Champions League third qualifying round tie with KRC Genk after a convincing first-leg victory against FC Torpedo Kutaisi.
Baranek hits two
The hero in the Letná stadium was Miroslav Baranek, who has just returned to Sparta after two years in Germany with 1. FC Köln. Baranek scored twice before the comprehensive victory was sealed by substitute Michal Pospísil.
Torpedo began the match in defensive mode, often putting ten men behind the ball. However, they were behind after only seven minutes when Baranek met Karel Poborský's free-kick to score. He then doubled the advantage 13 minutes later after Lukas Zelenka's smart pass.
Sparta were in command and it looked like they would run away with the tie before the first half was over. Captain Jirí Novotný and the 19-year-old striker Tomás Jun both had good chances to add to the home side's tally. Torpedo created very little, with only David Janashia's shot posing any threat but Sparta goalkeeper Michal Spit had no problem in keeping it out.
The second half started in similar fashion with Sparta on the attack and Torpedo trying to hold firm. Baranek went close to sealing his hat-trick in the 71st minute with a wonderful solo effort, only to be foiled by Torpedo goalkeeper Zviadi Sturua.
Sparta kept up the pressure knowing a third would virtually kill off the tie, and replaced Jun with Pospísil, one of the Czech Republic's heroes from the UEFA European Under-21 Championship triumph. Pospísil justified his appearance with the crucial third to send the home fans home happy ahead of next Wednesday's second leg
The winners will play Belgian champions Genk in the third qualifying round, with a place in the first group stage up for grabs. Sparta will hope last season's experience, when they reached the second group stage, will serve them in good stead this time around.
Sparta coach Jozef Jarabinský was delighted at the result and said his side had lived up to his expectations. "We wanted to keep a clean sheet at first and score three goals at least," he said. "I don't think that Sparta are a team that will lose by a four-goal margin in the return match."
He added that he was particularly pleased with the efforts of Poborský, who is not fully fit. "He had a fever and did not train for a couple of days," Jarabinský added. "We kept it quiet, but he was very tired after one hour."
Torpedo coach Olexander Shtelin said Sparta's experience told. "It is very tough for our team to play against such an opponent," he said. "But we haven't given up before the home match."
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