The Czech Republic had to survive an almighty scare to defeat Bosnia-Herzegovina 3-2 on aggregate and seal a return to the UEFA European Under-21 Championship finals.
The Czechs, who won the competition in 2002 before missing out on qualification to the next two tournaments, won Friday's first leg 2-1 but were seven minutes away from elimination on the away-goals rule tonight following Sejad Salihović's 52nd-minute opener for the home side in Sarajevo. That changed when Tomáš Frejlach levelled in the 83rd minute to deny the Bosnians what would have been a first appearance in a UEFA final tournament at any level.
Bosnia-Herzegovina were first out of the blocks in front of a raucous home crowd, forward Vedad Ibišević shooting over after finding himself well place in the second minute. That was to prove typical of what lay ahead in the opening 45 minutes, with Salihović and Damir Memišević both forcing visiting goalkeeper Zdeněk Zlámal into action while the visitors were content to sit on their lead.
Salihović was not to be denied soon after the restart, though, as the midfielder rifled in a superb shot from 30 minutes to spark huge celebrations. Yet Bosnia-Herzegovina's attempts to add to that tally would be met with stern resistance, and the Czech Republic took full advantage of the home defence tiring late on as Daniel Pudil laid on the winning goal for Frejlach.
"We had it in our own hands and didn't succeed," lamented home coach Ibrahim Zukanović. "But it was bad luck that we didn't qualify and I congratulate my players on their best performance ever."