The record books will show the Czech Republic defeated Moldova 5-0 in their UEFA EURO 2004™ qualifying Group 3 encounter, but Karel Brückner's side only managed to secure the points in the last eight minutes.
In the end, Moldova paid the price for negative tactics as even their matchwinner from Saturday against Austria, Viorel Frunza, was relegated to the substitutes' bench. They were fortunate to have held out for the 41 minutes it took for Vladimír Šmicer to break the deadlock.
The home side wasted three clear chances inside the opening six minutes, when Šmicer, Karel Poborský and Jan Koller were all thwarted by goalkeeper Evgenii Hmaruc. Poborský found a way past Hmaruc in the ninth minute only to be denied by the offside flag.
The Czechs remained on the offensive for long periods and created several more opportunities, forcing Hmaruc to make a series of impressive saves. The goalkeeper even stopped a penalty - after Iurie Priganiuc was cautioned for having held Koller's shirt in the area - when he denied Marek Jankulovski from the spot ten minutes before the interval.
Milan Baroš, who had scored six goals in his previous seven international games, was surprisingly omitted by Brückner in place of his Liverpool FC colleague Šmicer. The decision, however, paid dividends in the 41st minute when Šmicer was quickest to react to the rebounding ball after his initial shot cannoned off the post.
Moldova looked to gain a foothold in the match during the opening exchanges of the second half and goalkeeper Petr Cech was called into action to block Serghei Covalciuc's long-range effort before Serghei Rogaciov shot wide with the goal at his mercy.
Brückner opted to freshen up his attacking options with the introduction of Baroš and Jirí Štajner. The former was fouled for a penalty in the 73rd minute, which Koller duly converted. Priganiuc departed soon afterwards following his second bookable offence and from then on the Czech side were rampant.
First international goal
Štajner burst clear from the centre circle for his first international goal eight minutes from time, before another substitute, Vratislav Lokvenc, headed in twice in the final three minutes after connecting with crosses from Zdenek Grygera and Jankulovski. The Czechs moved top of the group ahead of the Netherlands on goal difference.
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