FC Slovan Liberec failed to make their superior possession count as FC Spartak Moskva left the Czech Republic with a 0-0 draw to leave this UEFA Champions League third qualifying round tie finely poised ahead of the decider in the Russian capital in two weeks' time.
Liberec's previous attempt to reach the group stage in 2002 ended in disappointment as they were eliminated by AC Milan despite a 2-1 home victory, and the only survivor from that defeat, Ivan Hodúr, could not take advantage of a clear opening in the eighth minute. The 26-year-old showed nifty footwork to skip past Spartak defender Martin Stranzl but found goalkeeper Wojciech Kowalewski far tougher to deceive. Pavel Koštál nodded the resulting corner narrowly wide.
While Liberec were able to field a first-choice lineup, Spartak were without captain Yegor Titov with a broken cheekbone and fellow midfielder Vladimir Bystrov after he twisted an ankle in training yesterday. The visitors' best opportunity of the first half came in the 12th minute when Radoslav Kováč was wayward with a close-range header on his return to his homeland. Real chances were at a premium, although Jan Holenda did spurn one for the hosts in the 67th minute before Kowalewski denied Tomáš Janu and Petr Papoušek from distance.
Spartak striker Fernando Cavenaghi had the best opening of all, yet blasted over when well placed in the 71st minute. Despite losing Costa Rican international forward Winston Parks to a late ankle injury, Liberec will remain confident they can pull off a shock in Moscow as Spartak have scored just once in drawing all three qualifying games this summer.