By Ladislav Josef
The Czech Republic returned to winning ways in Group 1 after their draw in F.Y.R. Macedonia last November, defeating Finland 3-0 in Mladá Boleslav to remain in contention for a place in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship finals.
Lukáš Magera, who was also on target for the Czechs in the previous international to be played in Skopje, opened the scoring today. The tall midfield player fired in a low left-footed shot from the edge of the penalty area on 20 minutes.
Both sides made changes at half-time, but the substitutions of home coach Ladislav Škorpil proved to be more successful than those of his Finnish counterpart Markku Tapio Kanerva. Czech substitute Ales Besta centred from the left touchline in the 52nd minute and Finnish debutant Ville Taulo headed into his own net.
The visitors were reduced to ten men on 69 minutes as Njazi Kuqi was sent off for dissent, and VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach forward Vaclav Sverkos took advantage to seal the victory with the third goal three minutes from time.
The Czech Republic therefore trail section leaders Romania - 2-0 winners against the Netherlands today - by one point, while Finland are second from bottom having managed only three points from five games. The Dutch are Finland's next opponents on 7 June, with the Czechs next at home against F.Y.R. Macedonia the same day.