R. Excelsior Mouscron 2-2 SK Slavia Praha
A fine late comeback gave hosts R. Excelsior Mouscron a share of the spoils in a four-goal UEFA Cup first round first-leg thriller with much-fancied Czech outfit SK Slavia Praha.
The visitors looked to have done the hard work by moving into a two-goal lead early in the second half, only for the Belgian side to battle their way back into the tie with a two-goal burst by Mbo Mpenza.
Slavia dominated the first half, and could have been three goals ahead in no time. The technically and tactically superior Czech outfit had to wait until the 41st minute, however, to make their class tell, Stepan Vachousek scoring from Rudolf Skacel's centre.
The second half continued in the same vain, and Slavia were two up three minutes after the break – Adam Petrouš finding the target with a fantastic 30-metre drive. There looked no way back for Mouscron.
However, the entrance of Cyril Shishuba Asanda as a substitute galvanised the home side, and they reduced the arrears with 18 minutes left, when Mpenza, easily Mouscron's best player, found the target with a header.
Mouscron went on to launch a grandstand finish, and their efforts were rewarded in the dying moments when Mpenza was pulled down in the area by Radek Bejbl. Mpenza equalised from the spot, and Bejbl was shown the red card.
"We still have a chance," said Mouscron coach Lorenzo Staelens. "In the first half, our play was a disaster, we let Slavia develop their game and our combination play was poor. But we found our way after the substitutions, and I think that our equaliser was deserved."
"We succeeded in countering Mouscron in the first half," said Slavia coach Miroslav Beranek. "But we fell back and allowed them back into the game. We didn't make the most of our opportunities."