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Liberec off the mark with Estoril scalp

FC Slovan Liberec 2-1 Estoril Praia
Goals in either half from Josef Šural and Radoslav Kováč gave the home team their first victory in Group H.

Josef Šural celebrates after scoring Liberec's opener
Josef Šural celebrates after scoring Liberec's opener ©AFP/Getty Images

FC Slovan Liberec continued their promising start to UEFA Europa League Group H by edging Estoril Praia 2-1.

Buoyed by a 2-2 comeback draw at SC Freiburg last time out, the hosts broke through after 15 minutes courtesy of Josef Šural. Luís Leal levelled on the stroke of half-time after Bruno Miguel had been sent off, but Radoslav Kováč put Liberec back in front. And although Isaac Sackey became the second player to be dismissed late on, by then Jaroslav Šilhavý troops had done enough.

Dzon Delarge personified Liberec's early enthusiasm, displaying fleet of foot to beguile his marker and elicit a smart stop from Vagner at his near post. João Pedro Galvão caressed a shot narrowly wide at the other end, yet the visitors were soon behind. Taking receipt of David Pavelka's sumptuous through ball, midfielder Šural strode through one on one and produced an assured finish.

Estoril's response was spirited, even if Evandro could only head straight at goalkeeper Přemysl Kovář from Sebá's pinpoint cross. Indeed, not even Miguel's second yellow card for a foul on Martin Frýdek could puncture their momentum, and Leal steered in at the back post following a goalmouth scramble in the 45th minute.

Liberec were swift to wrestle back the initiative after the break, though, Sackey picking out Frýdek, whose firm header was cradled by Vagner. The same player then fired over and it came as little surprise when Kováč buried the ball in from close range. The only blot on an otherwise positive night for the hosts came when Sackey was sent off late on.