The Czech Republic's campaign to reach the 2011 UEFA European Under-21 Championship continued apace as they beat Northern Ireland 2-1 to maintain their 100 per cent Group 5 record and open up a three-point lead at the summit.
End of the road
Defeat in Ballymena, in contrast, means Northern Ireland can no longer reach Denmark in two years' time. They did, however, mount a spirited comeback against Jakub Dovalil's side after spending large swathes of the first half on the back foot. Martin Zeman was the visitors' main threat and opened the scoring on 36 minutes with a free-kick seemingly designed as a cross that evaded everyone and crept into Trevor Carson's net.
Barely a minute later the lead was doubled as Lukáš Mareček raced down the right and delivered a perfect cross which Libor Kozák headed inside Carson's right-hand post. Borek Dockal should have put matters beyond doubt, but dragged wide when through one-on-one with Carson, meaning Oliver Norwood's scorching 81st-minute free-kick – his second in five days – ensured a tense closing period. The Czechs hung on to move clear of Iceland at the top of the section with third-placed Germany still eight points adrift despite beating San Marino 11-0. The Czech Republic are next in action when San Marino visit in August 2010, while Northern Ireland host the same opponents in March.