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Plzeň pip Atlético to take top spot

FC Viktoria Plzeň 1-0 Club Atlético de Madrid
Coach Pavel Vrba received the perfect birthday present from his team as they edged out the ten-man champions to finish as winners of Group B. 

Plzeň celebrate the goal that earned them first place in Group B
Plzeň celebrate the goal that earned them first place in Group B ©AFP/Getty Images

FC Viktoria Plzeň presented coach Pavel Vrba with the perfect birthday present as they secured top spot in UEFA Europa League Group B with a narrow win against Club Atlético de Madrid.

On the day that Vrba turned 49, Václav Procházka's first-half strike was enough to defeat the defending champions and help the hosts leapfrog Diego Simeone's men in the section. Unable to convert second-half domination into a goal, Atlético advance as runners-up into the round of 32, finishing a point behind the Czech club in the final standings.

With Plzeň unbeaten in seven European home games it was no surprise to see them spring out of the traps, as Marek Bakoš drilled over early on, before a quick counterattack ended with the forward heading straight at goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo. The breakthrough came 26 minutes in when Plzeň made the most of some generous Atlético marking; Michal Ďuriš flicked on Vladimír Darida's corner from the left, and Procházka slipped clear of Diego Costa to volley in his first goal in UEFA competition at the back post.

Costa almost made amends as he drove over from the edge of the area, before home keeper Matúš Kozáčik was forced into a sharp save low to his left, when the forward was sent clear by Adrián López.

With their position as the section's top dogs in danger, the gravity of the situation dawned on the Spanish side after the interval and they pushed forward with increasing intensity as the seconds ticked by. Koke let fly an effort a fraction over the bar from 25 metres, then Costa was again denied by Kozáčik in a one-on-one situation. Raúl García volleyed wide from a corner and Atlético's evening ended in frustation when Costa was dismissed for violent conduct in the dying moments, allowing Plzeň to gain revenge for the 1-0 matchday two defeat in Madrid.

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