By Ladislav Josef
The Czech Republic moved into pole position in UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifying Group 1 after two goals in two minutes from Václav Sverkoš and Michal Papadopulos saw off F.Y.R. Macedonia.
Before kick-off, the Macedonians were in fourth, just three points adrift of their second-placed hosts. But the defeat severely dents their hopes of making the play-offs, while the Czechs now lead the Netherlands on goal difference after both won today, though Romania can restore their lead by defeating Armenia on Wednesday.
Coach Ladislav Škorpil, 60 on Monday, was without suspended captain Tomáš Sivok and forwards Filip Trojan and Tomáš Jun, injured and promoted to the senior squad respectively. The strike pair were missed, as coming off a run of 13 goals in five games the Czechs failed to find the target before the break, while at the other end Blaze Ilijoski missed as he shot at an unguarded net.
Having only avoided defeat in Skopje in October with a last-gasp equaliser, the Czechs needed a penalty to open the scoring on 50 minutes. Svěrkoš was tripped by Muarem Bajrami and rose himself to convert.
Papadopulos's individual effort swiftly doubled the lead and victory was sealed, although a blow came for the Czechs when stand-in captain Svěrkoš was booked, ruling the forward out of their next match, the crucial trip to Romania on 2 September. F.Y.R. Macedonia need only wait until 16 August for the visit of Finland.