Two tremendous goals from Jan Koller and a wonderful performance by Pavel Nedved helped the Czech Republic to a sparkling 4-0 UEFA EURO 2004™ Group 3 victory against ten-man Austria in the Letná stadium.
The tirelessly innovative Nedved opened the scoring for a totally dominant Czech team and Koller scored either side of a Marek Jankulovski penalty after substitute Bozo Kovacevic, who had only been on the field for three minutes, had been sent off for bringing down Milan Baroš in the area.
Despite being under pressure for much of the game, the best early chances fell to the visitors. An ambitious stab at goal from Mario Haas was deflected wide by defender René Bolf and on 17 minutes René Aufhauser's downward header found Markus Schopp at the far post - but the Brescia Calcio player was unable to turn the ball past Petr Cech in the Czech goal.
Schopp's profligacy was underlined two minutes later when the Czech Republic took the lead. Karel Poborský slotted the ball into the path of Nedved, who beat the offside trap and delightfully lifted the ball over the advancing Thomas Mandl and into the Austrian net.
A prime example of the home side's invention was shown on 28 minutes, after Poborský had been wrestled to the ground just outside the Austrian penalty area. Rather than a straightforward shot at goal, the AC Sparta Praha forward surprised the Austrian defence by passing the ball wide of the defensive wall, from where Vladimír Šmicer peeled off and squared a low cross - but Koller was unable to turn the ball into the net from six metres.
Koller made amends four minutes later, collecting the ball from Baroš and dribbling into the area before dragging the ball wide of Mandl and stroking a shot into the empty net to double the home side's lead. Cheered on by a vocal crowd, the Czechs began to turn on the style and Poborský almost stole the show with an audacious angled chip, which dropped just behind Mandl's goal.
The second half brought more punishment for the Austrians, who gave the home side too much time and space all evening - and to make matters worse the visitors had to play with ten men for 35 minutes after Kovacevic, who had come on for Andreas Herzog, saw red for his professional foul on Baroš. Jankulovski strode up and thumped a left-footed penalty past Mandl and the game already looked over.
On 58 minutes, Mandl made a fine double save to deny Baroš, who watched his flying header palmed away and a firm sidefoot moments later batted to safety. But Mandl was soon picking the ball out of his net for the fourth time after Jankulovski turned full-back Paul Scharner inside-out and delivered a left-wing cross, which Koller met at the far post with a bullet header to make it 4-0 and round off a wonderful display.
'We did not want to lose'
Koller was delighted by the performance, saying: "I think we played exactly the type of game we wanted tonight. It was good to get a couple of goals, but more importantly these were points we did not want to lose".