AC Sparta Praha captain Karel Poborský scored a dramatic late goal to earn his side a crucial UEFA Champions League Group G victory against Besiktas JK at the Toyota Arena. The game had looked to be drifting towards a draw after a Daniel Pancu penalty cancelled out Lukáš Zelenka’s opener, but, with six minutes left, Poborský finished from close range to earn all three points.
The first half was a tight affair. Besiktas certainly had the better of the early chances, with striker Ahmet Dursun - in for the suspended Ilhan Mansiz - getting a sight of goal after just two minutes. He seemed to have got away from Sparta defender Vladimír Labant, but the Slovakian recovered well to deflect the shot over the crossbar.
Five minutes later and Sparta almost took a bizarre lead. The home captain, Poborský, lined up a free-kick from fully 35 metres. Instead of crossing, however, he sent a chip looping towards goal, which Besiktas's Colombian goalkeeper, Óscar Córdoba, had to be alert to tip over.
Besiktas on top
That chance apart, it was all Besiktas in the opening stages. Turkish international playmaker Sergen Yalçin looked lively and with 12 minutes played he set up Federico Giunti with a short free-kick. The Italian midfield player's shot dipped violently in the air but flew narrowly wide of Jaromír Blazek's far post.
Blazek was soon called into action, though, blocking from Polish midfield player Kaan Dobra and making a diving save to deny Ahmet Dursun's low volley. Yet the best was yet to come. With nearly 30 minutes played, Sergen Yalçin threaded a clever through-ball to Ahmet and the Besiktas striker was faced with just Blazek to beat. He took a heavy touch, however, and the goalkeeper came flying off the line to quell the danger.
With that, the game swung in Sparta's favour. Labant, pushing up from left-back, sent in a powerful low drive from 25 metres. The ball deflected into the path of Radoslav Kovác, who shot low and hard at Córdoba. The goalkeeper spilled the shot and Marek Kincl looked to be favourite to the loose ball, only for the Colombian to close the ground quickly and make an excellent block.
With half-time approaching, Zelenka fed Kincl on the left side of the box. The Sparta striker then played the ball across goal with Pavel Pergl well placed. Zago, Besiktas's Brazilian defender, nipped in to make a last-ditch clearance, leaving the game scoreless at the break.
The second half seemed to be going the same way, before the game sprang to life on 58 minutes. The hosts' lively midfield player Lukáš Zelenka picked up Libor Sionko's pass from the left and skipped past Ronaldo Guiaro. Without breaking his stride he eluded Besiktas's other Brazilian Zago, before slotting low across Córdoba and into the net.
Two minutes later, Besiktas were level. Sergen Yalçin seemed to be heading away from the danger area when he was bundled over by Blazek. With the penalty given, Romanian midfield player Pancu stepped up, sending the Sparta goalkeeper the wrong way with his low right-footed shot.
With the game seemingly destined for a draw, Sparta sprang a late surprise. Labant sprinted up from left-back to send in a first-time cross to the near post. Kovác flicked the ball on to the far post where Poborský met it with a neat finish, to send the Sparta fans in the Toyota Arena into celebration.