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SK Slavia Praha retain hopes of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League group stage for the first time after taking a 1-0 lead from Amsterdam and their third qualifying round first-leg encounter against AFC Ajax.
David Kalivoda's 74th-minute penalty gave an Ajax side still smarting from the departure of Wesley Sneijder for Real Madrid CF much to ponder ahead of their trip to the Czech capital on 29 August – while Slavia kept an impressive defensive record intact.
Four games into the new season, Slavia have yet to concede in league and cup although they found themselves under early pressure here as Johnny Heitinga went close before Urby Emanuelson delivered a left-wing cross that debutant Luis Suárez scooped over. The chances continued with Thomas Vermaelen's 25th-minute header whistling past the post and Klaas Jan Huntelaar having a free-kick tipped over by Martin Vaniak.
At the other end Slavia, minus the suspended Vladimír Šmicer, forced Maarten Stekelenburg into a good stop via Petr Janda's close-range effort but it was a rare moment of action for the Ajax goalkeeper. The Dutch team, who were eliminated at the same stage last term by FC København, squandered an opportunity to convert their superiority into a lead on the hour when Suárez was brought down and Huntelaar's penalty was saved.
Ajax's frustration was mounting and 14 minutes later came the decisive moment as Slavia were awarded a spot-kick themselves. Awarded after Emanuelson had felled Janda, Kalivoda succeeded where Huntelaar had failed, placing the ball low into the bottom-right corner.
Ajax kept battling in a bid to salvage at least a draw to take with them to Prague but despite a late Huntelaar attempt that ended up in the side-netting, they were unable to break down the Slavia back line. On a night when AC Sparta Praha lost against Arsenal FC, Czech hopes this season seem to be in safer hands with Slavia.
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