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Season review: Czech Republic

Published: Tuesday 15 May 2012, 13.14CET
FC Slovan Liberec survived a last-day showdown with FK Viktoria Plzeň to clinch the title in a season that broke all scoring records, while SK Sigma Olomouc ended a 93-year trophy wait.
by Ondřej Zlámal
from Prague
Season review: Czech Republic
Liberec defender Jan Nezmar celebrates the title with their fans ©Jan Tauber features

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Published: Tuesday 15 May 2012, 13.14CET

Season review: Czech Republic

FC Slovan Liberec survived a last-day showdown with FK Viktoria Plzeň to clinch the title in a season that broke all scoring records, while SK Sigma Olomouc ended a 93-year trophy wait.

For the first time in the history of the Czech Republic's 1. Liga the title was decided by a last-day showdown between the top two and FC Slovan Liberec held FK Viktoria Plzeň 0-0 to depose the reigning champions – ironically after a season that produced a record 635 goals, including a new individual best of 25 from David Lafata.

Champions: FC Slovan Liberec
Slovan were six points adrift of AC Sparta Praha at the winter break, but never gave up hope. And sure enough Jaroslav Šilhavý’s side hit form in the spring with eight wins from 11 games, losing only once. Their away form was the key to Liberec's third title, winning 12 of their 15 matches and drawing two, scoring 40 and conceding just 14. Their 38 away points is a Czech league record as is their total of 68 goals, despite the scoreless clincher, for which they sold out their Stadion u Nisy home for the first time. Šilhavý is celebrating his maiden trophy as a coach or player.

Cup final: SK Sigma Olomouc 1-0 AC Sparta Praha
Sigma ended a lowly 11th but secured the first major honour of their 93-year history, Michal Vepřek opening his club scoring account two minutes into the second half in Plzen. It was a happy note on which coach Petr Uličný and captain Radim Kučera were both able to announce their retirements.

European places*
FC Slovan Liberec – UEFA Champions League, second qualifying round
SK Sigma Olomouc – UEFA Europa League, third qualifying round
AC Sparta Praha – UEFA Europa League, second qualifying round
FK Viktoria Plzeň – UEFA Europa League, second qualifying round

*Subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the year: Jíří Štajner (FC Slovan Liberec)
Voted as such by daily Sport, the Liberec playmaker was key to their success with 15 goals and 16 assists, his free-kicks, corners and clever passes starting many a scoring attack. At the end of the title decider, when he was substituted, the entire Stadion u Nisy gave him a standing ovation. Though Štajner also earned his 37th Czech Republic cap in a friendly in the Republic Ireland in February, the 35-year-old did not make the cut for UEFA EURO 2012.

One to watch: Theodor Gebre Selassie (FC Slovan Liberec)
Someone who is going to Poland and Ukraine, and as his name suggests the son of an Ethiopian father. The right-back came of age this season, becoming a regular Czech Republic starter, always keen to support the attack and able to play a killer pass moments after breaking up an opposition surge. The only outfield player at Slovan to play every minute of the league campaign, he scored five important goals and is one to watch next month.

Surprise package: FK Dukla Praha
The top-flight newcomers came an impressive sixth. Coached by the young, ambitious Luboš Kozel, they also played a key role in the title race, holding Sparta 1-1 in their last home game to condemn the 11-time Czech Republic champions to their second straight runners-up finish.

Leading scorer: David Lafata (FK Jablonec)

Relegated: Bohemians 1905, FK Viktoria Žižkov

Promoted: FC Vysočina Jihlava, FC Zbrojovka Brno

Number: 635
The new record of tally of goals in the 240-fixture season broke the previous mark by just one, SK Slavia Praha's Daniel Veselý and Zbyněk Pospěch scoring in the last ten minutes of their 3-1 defeat of Bohemians.

"My philosophy was to practice attacking and attractive football. The players who were in Liberec were perfectly suited for that. After an agreement with them we started playing in this style and it went so well that everybody enjoyed it. The spectators did as well."
Liberec coach Šilhavý on his title-winning formula.

Last updated: 09/12/12 23.44CET

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