SK Slavia Praha recovered from a 1-0 first-leg deficit against FC PAOK Thessaloniki in their UEFA Cup third-round tie with a stylish 4-0 victory at the Strahov stadium.
This second leg was decidedly one-sided from the outset, and Slavia were not flattered by their margin of victory. The introduction of veteran striker Pavel Kuka with the score still at a potentially fragile 2-0 on the night proved a masterstroke, as he helped himself to late double to dampen any hint of nerves.
Slavia coach Milan Beránek had warned before the match that the freezing conditions would play into the hands of his team, and the hosts certainly caught PAOK cold. They attacked at pace and en masse in a whirlwind opening 20 minutes, in which they could have put the result beyond doubt.
PAOK simply could not handle the pace of Tomáš Došek, who cut their back four to shreds at will. Twice he threatened in the opening minutes, before his flicked header sent Rudolf Skacel scampering through on 13 minutes. He made no mistake with his finish, firing left-footed past Kiriakos Tohouroglou.
PAOK on the brink
PAOK teetered on the brink of collapse, and looked set to surrender to their rampant hosts. However, within two minutes they could have been level, as Nikos Frousos' smart backheel picked out Yiannakis Okkas. His shot crept between Radek Cerny's legs, but Adam Petrouš was on hand to clear off the line.
Chances go begging
Chances came and went for Slavia as PAOK desperately tried to steady themselves, with Stepan Vachousek guilty of profligacy, but the tie remained level on aggregate at the break.
Vachousek made up for his earlier misses on 51 minutes though, curling in a free-kick from 20 metres to put Slavia 2-0 up on aggregate. From there it was cruise control for the hosts, only Georgios Koutsis' bad miss on 72 minutes giving them any worries.
Kuka the predator
Three minute later Kuka took to the field and his predatory instincts saw him pounce with a header on 89 minutes before poking into the goal from close range deep into added time. On this performance, Slavia need fear no one in the fourth round and coach Miroslav Beránek certainly sounded satisfied after the game. "The quick goals at the beginning of each half helped us very much," he said. "
The visitors had to open up after our second goal and the space suited us."
Visiting coach Angelos Anastasiadis said that his side had suffered an off-day. "Several of our players were not in good shape," he said. "
We made too many errors. We earned our credentials in Europe in the previous rounds, but we lost them completely today."