AC Sparta Praha will be confident they can move a step closer to the UEFA Champions League group stage after kicking off their second qualifying round tie against FC Sheriff with a 1-0 victory in Moldova.
New Sparta coach Vítězslav Lavička handed debuts to midfield recruits Ondřej Kušnír and Patrik Berger, and the latter was one of several players to test goalkeeper Stanislav Namasco with shots from distance in the first half. Jiří Kladrubský and Petr Voříšek also had efforts saved, but it was Miroslav Slepička who went closest for the visitors, shooting against a post from 15 metres after being played in behind the Sheriff defence by Miroslav Matušovič.
The game became a more balanced affair after the restart, yet that only served to present Sparta with the opening they needed. Forced to defend a corner, Lavička's men won back possession and charged upfield with Slepička releasing Matušovič, who broke into the area and set up Kladrubský to fire in off the post with 74 minutes gone. Sheriff fought valiantly to respond, with coach Leonid Kuchuk introducing fresh forwards Ionut Radu and Igor Picusciac, but Sparta will start with the advantage when the return leg unfolds in the Czech capital on 6 August.
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