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Vlček sparks Slavia celebrations

Published: Wednesday 29 August 2007, 23.15CET
SK Slavia Praha 2-1 AFC Ajax (agg: 3-1)
Stanislav Vlček's double and an inspired display from Martin Vaniak earned a first group-stage campaign.
by Josef Ladislav
Vlček sparks Slavia celebrations
Stanislav Vlček celebrates Slavia's victory ©AFP
Published: Wednesday 29 August 2007, 23.15CET

Vlček sparks Slavia celebrations

SK Slavia Praha 2-1 AFC Ajax (agg: 3-1)
Stanislav Vlček's double and an inspired display from Martin Vaniak earned a first group-stage campaign.

SK Slavia Praha are through to the UEFA Champions League group stage for the first time after a memorable defeat of AFC Ajax in Prague with Stanislav Vlček the hero as he scored twice to end the challenge of the four-time European champions.

Slavia relief
The Czech side had done their chances no harm at all after coming away from the first leg in Amsterdam two weeks ago with a precious 1-0 advantage and the home crowd were celebrating a two-goal aggregate cushion midway through the first half when Vlček popped up unmarked in the penalty area to connect with Mickaël Tavares's cross. The goal came as a huge relief to the striker, who had spurned the first chance of the match when put clean through on 13 minutes only to be denied by goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg.

Ajax domination
Henk ten Cate's Ajax side, who lost to FC København in the third qualifying round a year ago, were soon back in the match, however, Uruguayan international Luis Suárez racing on to Klaas Jan Huntelaar's long ball on 33 minutes to score with a fierce cross-shot that whistled inside the far post beyond goalkeeper Martin Vaniak. Buoyed by the goal Ajax began to dominate and the visitors created a host of chances to take the lead on the night, and gain the initiative on the away-goals rule, but failed to provide the end product.

Vaniak heroics
Vaniak had been the Slavia hero in the previous round when his saves in the penalty shoot-out against MŠK Žilina kept alive his side's hopes of reaching the group stage and was again in sterling form, pulling off a series of stunning saves and parrying close-range headers from both Huntelaar and Jaap Stam. With Ajax forced to commit more men forward as time ran out, Vlček then delivered the knockout blow two minutes before the final whistle after latching on to another Tavares through-ball to ensure the Slavia celebrations could begin in earnest.

Last updated: 30/08/07 10.29CET

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