FC Slovan Liberec were held to a goalless draw by BV Borussia Dortmund in Prague.
FC Slovan Liberec 0-0 BV Borussia Dortmund
FC Slovan Liberec's marvellous run in the UEFA Cup may have come to an end after BV Borussia Dortmund held them to a goalless draw in their quarter-final first-leg tie at the Letná stadium in Prague. It was the first time in this competition that the Czech side had failed to win at home or, in this case, their home from home.
Too cute defensively
It was another big-hearted effort from Slovan, for the second time having to play away from their U Nisy stadium because of the state of the pitch there, but they found Matthias Sammer's side just a little too knowledgeable, a little too cute defensively. Even so, Slovan could, and perhaps should, have won the game.
Pass of the night
Ten minutes before half-time, Jirí Štajner, their industrious and inventive midfield player, made the pass of the night when he back-heeled the ball to Jan Nezmar following a storming left-wing run by Martin Zboncak. However, from penalty-spot range and with only Jens Lehmann to beat, Nezmar side-footed the ball over the bar.
Tempting focal point
It was probably the only clear-cut chance they had all evening. They were certainly never going to run away with the game as they did at this stadium - the home of rivals AC Sparta Praha - a fortnight ago, against Olympique Lyonnais. Dortmund are an experienced and solid side, if a little one-dimensional going forwards - the lanky Jan Koller would be a tempting focal point for any side - and they steadily drew Slovan's fire.
At least the result made two Czech Republic players happy. Koller and his prodigiously talented team-mate Tomáš Rosicky were both returning to the ground where they once played as Sparta players. It was a disciplined performance by Rosicky rather than a spectacular one.
The 36-year-old Dortmund captain Jürgen Kohler marshalled his defence superbly, just as he did ten years and more ago. Time and again Štajner made good progress down the right, particularly in the second half, but Slovan were unable to take advantage. Nezmar had a couple of headers he might have done better with, but they were little more than half-chances.
Excellent reflex saves
While Dortmund may not have created very much - and as the second half wore on to their liking they created less and less - they could point to two excellent reflex saves by Antonín Kinsky, without which Slovan would have found themselves facing an even steeper uphill climb in Dortmund next week.
On each occasion they came as a result of a deflection off Bohuslav Pilny. In the 29th minute, Kinsky appeared to have a header from Kohler to a Sunday Oliseh free-kick covered until Pilny tried to intercept it. Instead he almost steered the ball past his own keeper. It was a brilliant recovery save by Kinsky.
The second one, 15 minutes from time, was almost as good. This time Pilny's intervention was involuntary, Marcio Amoroso's free-kick ricocheting off him as he ran back towards goal. Kinsky had started to move to his right and had to suddenly change direction to keep the shot out.
Otherwise, the nearest Dortmund came to scoring was when Koller surprised Kinsky with a close range header which the keeper, this time, fumbled inelegantly against the crossbar. He was fortunate that the rebound dropped kindly for him.
'Quality in defence'
Ladislav Skorpil, the Slovan coach, believed it was "not a bad result" for his side. "We played as well as in the previous rounds," he said. "They [Dortmund] showed their quality in defence."
'Very tough game'
Sammer was clearly pleased with that part of his team's game. "We knew it was going to be a very tough game," he said. "Every team have lost here so it is good to come here and not concede a goal."
Koller described it as "a golden point" and so it was. Slovan have won away from home in this competition before, beating RCD Mallorca 2-1 in the third round, but that was after a home win. "We knew they would play an aggressive game and they did," added Koller. "We didn't play our game, only kick and rush. Liberec were the better side in the second half, but I'm sure it will be a different story at home."