AC Sparta Praha got their UEFA Champions League campaign off to a rousing start with a comfortable win at SK Liepājas Metalurgs in the first leg of their second qualifying round tie.
The Czech champions were in the ascendancy for much of the game in Latvia, taking a deserved lead through Václav Kadlec eight minutes before half-time. Bony Wilfried gave the visitors breathing space with two goals in seven minutes early in the second half, leaving Metalurgs with a mountain to climb in the Czech capital next Wednesday.
It could have been worse for Rüdiger Abramczik’s side, however, Kadlec spurning a clear opening 11 minutes in having found himself through on goal. The hosts did threaten on occasion, Jurģis Kalns going close with a long-range shot on 29 minutes, but it was little surprise when Sparta went in front, Kadlec racing onto Igor Žofčák's through pass and finishing with aplomb.
Intars Kirhners nearly mustered an immediate riposte but his shot was blocked, allowing Jozef Chovanec's charges to make their mark on the game after the break. Wilfried doubled their lead six minutes into the second half with a precise finish from Marek Matějovský's pass, and added a third soon after having beaten two defenders to the ball.
Wilfried fired over when presented with the chance of a hat-trick 16 minutes from time before Metalurgs spurned the opportunity to gain a foothold in the tie three minutes from the end, Vitalijus Kavaliauskas missing the target after good work from captain Tomas Tamošauskas.