By Giuseppe Perfetto in Basel
The Czech Republic recovered from going a goal down to defeat Switzerland 2-1 at FC Basel's Saint Jakob Park and close in on a place in the UEFA European Under-21 Championships.
The Czechs will take a one-goal lead back to Ostrava for the second leg on 19 November, and will be confident of progressing from the play-off for the final tournament, having scored two potentially vital away goals.
The visitors took control of the game from the kick-off, winning two corners in the first two minutes, although they were unable to take advantage of either. Switzerland gradually worked their way back into the match and took the lead two minutes past the quarter-hour, as a defensive mix-up between Czech midfield player Jakub Bureš and goalkeeper Jan Laštuvka gave Alain Nef the chance to score.
Czechs strike back
The goal sent the 13,521-strong crowd wild with delight but had come largely against the run of play, with Mario Licka seeing a shot blocked by Swiss goalkeeper Mario Wölfli following a corner. Undeterred by falling a goal behind, the visitors continued to press forward and drew level in the 32nd minute as Licka created a chance for Vaclav Sverkos and the striker made no mistake.
Buoyed by the equaliser, the Czechs threw men forward and duly took the lead four minutes before half-time as defender Jirí Koubský headed a left-wing corner into the net to give the visitors an advantage they were never to relinquish.
The home side sought a way back into the match in the second half, with Marco Streller sending a shot just wide within nine minutes of the restart. The same player came close to equalising again with 18 minutes remaining, before Degen and Roland Schwegler both had chances to make the score 2-2, but the Czechs held on for a vital victory.