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Filipenko strike earns Belarus Olympic ticket

Belarus will compete at the Olympic Games for the first time after Yegor Filipenko's 88th-minute goal gave them a 1-0 victory against a ten-man Czech Republic side in Aalborg.

Filipenko strike earns Belarus Olympic ticket
Filipenko strike earns Belarus Olympic ticket ©UEFA.com

Yegor Filipenko's 88th-minute goal gave Belarus victory against the Czech Republic and sealed their place at next year's Olympic Games.

The UEFA European Under-21 Championship third-place play-off burst into life late on after Filipenko's late volley set up a fraught finish. The Czech Republic had enjoyed most of the play, but Lukáš Vácha's 75th-minute dismissal gave Belarus licence to show more ambition, and Filipenko's goal was their reward.

Jakub Dovalil's assertion that his Czech Republic side "can play much better" than in their semi-final loss to Switzerland was reflected in four changes to his starting lineup, and a lively start. Adam Hloušek's free-kick caused momentary panic in the Belarus ranks, before Filipenko's slip let in Vácha only for the midfielder's shot to cannon away to safety.

In between, Jan Lecjaks' return to the Czech defence lasted just ten minutes after he fell awkwardly and looked to suffer a serious wrist injury. His replacement, Jan Kovařík, forged a promising left-sided partnership with Hloušek, who headed wide from Bořek Dočkal's inviting cross.

Belarus are nothing if not sturdy, though, and despite the Czechs' dominance in terms of the possession – they enjoyed the ball for 63% of the opening 45 minutes – first-half chances were few and far between for Dovalil's men. The coach then lost a second player to injury after Hloušek succumbed to a broken nose.

Marek Suchý did his best to unpick the Belarus defence straight after the interval, though his well-struck 25-metre drive was headed clear before Georgi Kondratyev's men came alive for the first time as an attacking force. Pavel Nekhaychik was denied by the legs of Tomáš Vaclík, the goalkeeper then doing enough to put off Maksim Skavysh from close range.

That flurry of chances heralded a spell of pressure for Belarus, with Stanislav Dragun heading wide twice. Filipenko's 65th-minute effort was deflected over, but it was Hloušek's replacement Libor Kozák who next went closest to breaking the deadlock. Not for the first time in this tournament, Aleksandr Gutor saved his side, pushing Kozák's header against a post before collecting the rebound.

With 15 minutes remaining, Vácha received a second booking for handball and the pattern of play changed once again, Belarus taking up the running. The Czech Republic defence did not look overly troubled, though, until Oleg Veretilo's low cross found Filipenko on the edge of the area. The big centre-back's volley was firmly stuck and unerringly placed, and gave Belarus a ticket to the Olympic Games for the first time.