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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 June, 2004, 17:56 GMT 18:56 UK
Czech Rep 2-1 Latvia

Marek Heinz and Milan Baros celebrate Czech Republic's victory
Marek Heinz's late goal gave the Czech Republic a winning start and saved them from a major upset at the hands of minnows Latvia.

A shock looked on the cards when Maris Verpakovskis tapped in Andrejs Prohorenkovs' cross to put Latvia ahead.

Milan Baros broke Latvia's stubborn resistance, cashing in on keeper Aleksandrs Kolinko's blunder to score.

With five minutes left another defensive error gave Heinz the chance to ram in a close-range winner.

Pavel Nedved provided Latvia with an early taste of the big-time with a teasing cross in the opening seconds which had Kolinko back-pedalling furiously before the ball drifted over his crossbar.

Prohorenkovs gave a glimpse of the pace of the Latvian front players when he outstripped Zdenek Grygera to whip in a cross which Rene Bolf stabbed behind for a corner.

Nedved was a growing presence and when a loose clearance fell to him 18 yards out Igors Stepanovs threw himself in front of the powerful shot.

Nedved was popping up all over the place and his cross from the right dead-ball line was finger-tipped off Jan Koller's head by Kolinko.

KEY MOMENTS
45 mins: Verpakovskis puts Latvia 1-0 ahead.
72 mins Baros levels for the Czechs
85 mins: Heinz fires the Czechs' winners

But Latvia's pace always provided a threat and Prohorenkovs sent over a cross from the right which the diving Verpakovskis just failed to make contact with.

Latvia's inexperience showed as they conceded possession cheaply and Tomas Rosicky almost made them pay as he found space to fire in a shot which drew a full-length save from Kolinko.

The Czechs were asking the questions and after Rene Bolf planted a header over the bar Karel Poborsky's rasping drive was inches over.

Stepanovs again came to Latvia's rescue when he bravely threw himself in front of Nedved's shot and on the stroke of half-time played an instrumental role as Latvia took a shock lead.

After breaking up an attack Stepanovs' pass sent Prohorenkovs away down the left and his perfect cross provided a tap-in for Verpakovskis.

It was a similar pattern at the start of the second half, but a combination of stubborn Latvian defending and the poor quality of their final pass proved frustrating for the Czechs.

Kolinko was again alert to drop on to Poborsky's deflected shot and Poborsky then saw a thumping half volley clip the outside of the post.

Baros twice spurned clear-cut chances as the Czechs threw men forward.

On the hour he turned sharply to fire wide from 12 yards, but two minutes later he spurned an even better chance.

Maris Verkapovskis taps in Latvia's goal against the Czech Republic
Maris Verkapovskis taps in Latvia's goal

Poborsky's cross fell to Baros on the far post but after bringing the ball down, the Liverpool frontman poked it wide from five yards.

Latvia came within a whisker of extending their lead when Prohorenkovs curled a shot inches past the post, while at the other end Kolinko produced a brilliant save to claw away Nedved's volley.

But it was Kolinko's error which handed the Czech a face-saver on 72 minutes.

Poborsky's persistance gave him a yard of space to play in a cross which Kolinko could only flap down to Baros, who this time made no mistake from 10 yards.

The Czechs could sniff victory now and laid siege to the Latvian goal.

They got their reward five minutes from time when Baros gave chase to a long ball and Mihails Zemlinskis' sliced clearance fell kindly for Heinz to smash the ball home.


Czech Republic: Cech, Grygera (Heinz 56), Ujfalusi, Bolf, Jankulovski, Poborsky, Galasek (Smicer 64), Nedved, Rosicky, Baros (Jiranek 87), Koller.
Subs Not Used: Blazek, Hubschman, Kinsky, Lokvenc, Mares, Plasil, Rozehnal, Tyce, Vachousek.

Latvia: Kolinko, Isakovs, Zemlinskis, Stepanovs, Blagonadezdins, Bleidelis, Lobanovs (Rimkus 90), Rubins, Astafjevs, Prohorenkovs (Laizans 71), Verpakovskis (Pahars 81).
Subs Not Used: Korablovs, Miholaps, Pavlovs, Piedels, Pucinskis, Smirnovs, Stolcers, Zakresevskis, Zirnis.

Attendance: 25,000

Referee: Gilles Veissiere (France).


OFFICIAL STATS BY UEFA
Category Czech Republic Latvia
Total shots 28 7
Shots on target 8 2
Possession 64% 36%
Corners won 13 3
Fouls committed 11 20
Offsides 6 1
Bookings 0 0
Sent Off 0 0



TRIVIA

  • Karel Poborský broke the Czech appearance record (including matches by Czechoslovakia) at European Championship finals. This match was his 10th, taking him ahead of Jiri Nemec. Poborský, Pavel Nedved and Vladimir Smicer set a new Czech record for playing at three different European Championship tournaments.
  • Milan Baros was only able to take the record for youngest Czech goalscorer at a European Championship by scoring in this match. He scored the opener and beat the record of Patrik Berger by two days. Baros became the third youngest Czech player to play a European Championship match.
  • No yellow or red cards were shown in this match which makes it only the 12th European Championship match without cards since yellow and red cards were introduced.





    Links to more Euro 2004 stories


     

  • WATCH AND LISTEN
    Highlights: Czech Republic 2-1 Latvia




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