Two goals from substitute Jan Nezmar helped FC Slovan Liberec overturn a 3-1 first-leg deficit and dump RC Celta de Vigo out of the UEFA Cup 4-3 on aggregate.
Nezmar, a second-half replacement for Baffour Gyan, scored with his first touch to give Slovan a crucial 2-0 lead and added a second in the final minute to seal a famous win against last year's quarter-finalists. Coach Ladislav Škorpil said: "Nezmar is our joker, it is not first time he has scored decisive goals as a substitute."
The Spanish side, who are unbeaten in the Primera División this season, were favourites going into this second round second-leg tie after an Aleksandr Mostovoi hat-trick had put them in control in Vigo. But, with Mostovoi left in Spain and other important players, such as top scorer Catanha and Brazilian midfielder Edu, on the bench, they were deservedly humbled 3-0 by a determined Slovan side. Celta coach Victor Fernández said: "We had eight players from our best eleven here. But our effort was not enough."
Cultured playmaker Václav Koloušek was at the heart of everything that was good about the Slovan performance and it was his free-kick five minutes before the interval which found powerhouse striker Jirí Štajner who nodded in the opening goal.
This was a key moment in the game as up until that point Slovan had looked comfortable in defence but threatened little at the other end. In fact Štajner’s header was their first shot on target.
But the goal lifted spirits both on the pitch and in the stands at the U Nisy stadium and Slovan started the second period with renewed confidence. Gyan had come close on two occasions before he was replaced by Nezmar in the 68th minute. With his first contribution the striker arrived unmarked in the penalty area to head home Koloušek’s delightful right-wing cross.
This vital second goal put Slovan in command of the tie thanks to their away goal in Vigo. Fernández had already realised his side were in trouble and brought on both Catanha and Edu early in the second half. And now, with the deficit doubled, all-out attack was the only option.
However, despite plenty of Celta pressure in the closing minutes, it was Slovan on the break who always looked the more likely scorers. Two opportunist efforts from Catanha were the closest the Galician side came, while Koloušek hit the bar with an audacious lob for Slovan before Nezmar converted Pavel Capek’s clever centre to send the home fans delirious.
'Effort not enough'
Reflecting on Celta's defeat, Fernández said that Liberec deserved to win: "The home team played with heart and courage. They were strong in defence and very effective in the attack. We hadn't any chance."