KRC Genk 2-0 AC Sparta Praha
KRC Genk are in a commanding position for qualification to the UEFA Champions League first group stage after an excellent home win against AC Sparta Praha.
Moons on fire
Sparta, who reached the second group stage of last season's competition, were unable to find a way past inspirational Genk goalkeeper Jan Moons. The Belgian champions soaked up the best the Czech side could offer before stunning the visitors with two goals in the last 15 minutes of the first half.
Still a chance
They must now be favourites to progress beyond the third qualifying round, but will have to be at their best defensively for the return leg in Prague in a fortnight. Sparta, boasting an in-form Karel Poborsky, will still feel they have a chance of going through.
It will certainly be possible if they play like they did in the opening minutes in the Fenixstadion tonight. Sparta's midfield players applied constant pressure and restricted Genk to long balls in the direction of powerful striker Beli-Moumouni Dagano and Belgian international Wesley Sonck.
Up a gear
Sparta's best opportunity fell to Michal Pospísil but Moons was equal to his header. Genk stepped up a gear as the half wore on and several chances were spurned before they finally broke the deadlock in the 33rd minute. A Josip Skoko corner reached the head of Bernd Thijs and he found the net. Buoyed by the goal, Genk searched for a second and Dagano found Mirsad Besilja to double the lead five minutes before the break.
Sparta battled hard in the second half but it was Genk who looked more likely to score again. Dagano and Sonck were dangerous on the counterattack and should have made it three. Yet the Czech side kept coming and Sparta substitute Peter Babnic should have given them a lifeline in the 69th minute, only to miss with the goal gaping. A minute later, Moons managed to stop a powerful shot from Poborsky and that was as close as the Czechs would get.
"I think we played an excellent first half," said Genk coach Sef Vergoossen. "However, we committed some mistakes in defence and had too big a gap between the lines. After 20 minutes, we finally started to gain some confidence and finally managed to score twice."
"I am very pleased with this result," he added. "Of course, now we are very confident for the second-leg match in two weeks and the possibility to make it into the Champions League."
'Not aggressive enough'
Sparta coach Jozef Jarabinský was gracious in defeat but also admitted "everything is still possible". He said: "I have to congratulate Genk for their good game and the good result they have achieved tonight. I am very disappointed by the performance of my team. We have not been aggressive enough."
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