The Czech Republic strengthened their hold on second place in Group I on Tuesday, but were made to work harder than they might have expected for a 2-0 win against Liechtenstein.
When Milan Baroš found the net after just three minutes, a third win of the campaign looked as if it might come easily against the section's bottom side, who have not won a competitive away fixture since 2004. However, it was not until Michal Kadlec powered home a near-post header with 20 minutes left that the Czechs could be sure of matching their win in the reverse fixture last October and moving within three points of Spain.
Bullish after their determined display in a 2-1 defeat by the group leaders in Granada last week, Michal Bílek's men picked up where they left off back on home turf, though they only had Baroš's early strike to show for an imperious opening – the Galatasaray AŞ forward finished expertly after latching onto Tomáš Rosický's neatly-flicked pass.
They would have quickly added to their advantage but Martin Stocklasa threw himself in front of Tomáš Sivok's goalbound shot, and the Liechtenstein defender deserved the fortune to see Jan Morávek's follow-up ricochet to safety off the bar. Peter Jehle then produced a magnificent save to deny David Lafata, but the visitors eventually found their feet, and though they did not carve out a clear-cut opportunity, Czech pulses were raised in alarm with David Hasler and Mario Frick particularly lively.
The hosts' hearts would have been in their mouths when Hasler bore down on goal soon after the restart, but Petr Čech scooped the midfielder's drive round a post. The Czechs regrouped, though, and Baroš struck an upright before Jaroslav Plašil's corner was met by Kadlec at the near post to soothe home nerves.