Slavia Prague 2 - 1 Leeds United
(Half-time: 0 - 0)
|« Wimbledon||Leicester City »|
|Leeds United||Martyn, Kelly, Haaland, Radebe, Woodgate, Harte, McPhail, Bakke, Jones, Kewell, Bridges (Smith 50)||Wilcox, Duberry, Robinson, Huckerby, Hopkin, Mills|
|Slavia Prague||Cerny, Kozek, L. Dosek, Koller, Hysky, Ulich, Dostalek (Lerch 53), Skala, Kuchar (Vozabal 85), T. Dosek (Vagner 53), Zelenka||Kristofik, Vaclavik|
|Leeds United||Kewell 47|
|Slavia Prague||Ulich 52, 79 pen|
|Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|Slavia Prague||Koller, Lerch|
|Leeds United||Slavia Prague|
|Shirt numbers of goalscorers||10||?|
|Matt G||Im-re Imre Varadi - Long Praha Report|
|The Guardian||Leeds cruise with Kewell|
|The Electronic Telegraph||Kewell helps Leeds cruise into last four|
|The Times||Leeds earn interest on Czech account|
|Express Sport||Slavia Prague 2 - 1 Leeds United|
|The Independent||Kewell steers Leeds past stubborn Slavia|
|Yorkshire Evening Post||United are bounced by the Czechs|
|BBC||Leeds lose but still make UEFA semi|
So Wednesday lunchtime, Stansted Airport and our intrepid band of 8 East Anglian whites (to be swelled to 14 when we reached Prague) set off on our travels again. We knew we must be doing well in Europe when we all got a discount of 20 quid from Go for being such frequent travellers. Though there were a lot of Leeds fans in the bar most were flying via Vienna or Berlin and not too many had managed to get on the direct flight to Prague. As ever Guy's guide proved invaluable, especially with respect to the ground we were playing at, most of the rest of the Leeds fans had made plans to get to Slavia's ground not realising we were actually playing somewhere else.
We had a smooth journey, taking just over an hour and a half to get there and on landing piled into a minibus and were in the hotel within half an hour. Ten minutes later we were out again, exploring our surroundings. The hotel was pretty central, next to the main station and meant we could get to both Wencelas Square (more a sort of Rectangle shaped Oxford St) and the Old Town Square (really nice at night, swamped with tourists by day) within about ten minutes each. Indeed most of the bits of the city you'd want to see is pretty compact and we walked everywhere over the 3 days, never needing to use any of the millions of trams. We started off in a bar next to the Old Town Square but they were a bit snotty there, so we soon moved on. They had a local singer who was rather surprised when we joined in with the song that had the same tune as the old Im-re Imre Varadi song, albeit with different lyrics. So we wandered over the Charles Bridge and found a friendly Irish bar over there (with the added bonus being the price of the beer had dropped from a pound to 50p). After a few convivial hours the owner told us that the bar 'technically' closed at one, but we were still there at about 3. I can only assume that it was tiredness that caused me to fall into a thankfully dry fountain whilst pursuing a photo opportunity on the way home. Our group then got split up and 2 of us spent an hour wandering round totally lost before we eventually found the hotel.
The next morning up reasonably early all things considered, and we hired a minibus to take us out to a small village called Ledice. This was a village where during WW2, the Nazis carried out reprisals for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich by killing all adult males, moving all the women and children to concentration camps and then totally flattening the entire village. You could say it was a sobering experience. On arriving back at the hotel we had to sort out some confusion and persuade them we had really booked for 2 nights before heading back out into the City. Still maybe a night on the streets wouldn't have been too bad, as it was incredibly warm in Prague, shirt-sleeve weather most of the time. As we completed a few more sights, there were a few more Leeds around and the rumour abounded that the draw would be fixed so that we'd play Arsenal in the semi's.
After a traditional meal, we basically ordered the whole menu and shared it around ourselves to get a flavour of the place, we returned to the bar from the night before which looked close to the ground from the map. It was probably only about half a mile away, but this was up the steepest hill in the world and by the time we got to the top we were all knackered and not too thrilled to see a huge wall in front of us. After finding a way past we then walked through a spooky park and what looked like a University campus before eventually finding the ground.
The ground was quite small, especially in relation to the huge f*** off stadium next to it (not sure what that was Olympics / National Stadium, Joel ?). But it was probably perfect for the game as the 13,000 inside nearly filled it and ensured a good atmosphere throughout, with a few fireworks from the other end towards the start. There were about 1500 Leeds, though the away end had room for about twice as møny and we also seemed to be joined by a few foreign locals and even the odd Czech. As to the game, DOL was obviously taking no risks with 5 at the back and Jones in for Wilcox in midfield. We played some decent stuff and should have been 2 up by half-time, as both Kewell and Bridges managed to miss virtual open goals and we seemed largely untroubled at the other end. To be honest not many of our fans seemed too interested in the match and were paying more attention to the subs warming up nearby and persuading Duberry and Smith to start the songs. We tried "we're only here for the Mozart" in reference to the millions of leaflets we'd been handed in the previous couple of days, but it didn't really catch on.
After the customary European WATC-COE, we scored a great goal near the start of the 2nd half, Kewell smashing home McPhails great pass first time and then DOL immediately subbed Bridges, one of many to be rested so we thought. However Slavia soon equalised as our defence went AWOL and the home fans went mad, while we weren't too bothered as we knew our away goal had sealed the game. The team seemed to know this as well and relaxed and Slavia duly won the game with a somewhat dubious penalty. This set the home fans Mexican waving but we were happy enough to join in and Mr Risdale was spotted partaking as well, as from the fan point of view the game turned out to be one of the friendliest ever.
When the game finished the Slavia fans celebrated as if they'd won the Cup and we wondered if the first leg result had actually filtered through to the Czech Republic, though respect to them they'd been noisy all game. So everyone seemed happy enough with the result and we had the strange sight of the team just having been knocked out of the Cup doing all lap of honour and being warmly applauded by the visiting fans. As the crowd emptied and we were kept behind a few of their fans wandered towards us and totally un-molested by the stewards were able to climb over the barriers into our end to swap handshakes and shirts etc. After that we got to applaud the wheelchairs as they left in front of us, with Mark the Leeds fan milking it for all it's worth and duly standing up when the inevitable Stand Up if .. song was sung to him. When we were allowed out, the cast of Robocop were there to greet us, but there was no hassle and it was back across the park and down the hill back to our new favourite bar.
Inevitably a quick stop turned into a few as we watched a re-run of the game and it was another late night. The evil tasting local clear drink they served us as we left (it began with B ) may have contributed to some of our bunch staggering in a 5.30 - luckily having stuck with cokes til after the game I was OK. From talking to people the next morning apparently there was the odd scuffle in the City Centre that night, but having stayed out of the way we had a great time both nights we were there with no problems.
Friday morning, a final bit of sightseeing, we actually saw the famous clock strike the hour for the first time, despite having walked through that square about a dozen times in all, and then climbed up the tower for a great view. We then stopped off in our local to see the semi-final draw, disappointed to get Galatasary and laugh at the farcical Champions league draw, they even did a draw for the final. The winners of Semi-Final one will play... the winners of semi-final two. Doh. A final meal and more sightseeing around the castle and a bit of shopping but sadly no Dukla Prague away kits.
The plane on the way home was delayed by an hour and a half, and was nearly full of Leeds. Despite the extra time in the airport bar, everyone was pretty well-behaved, although the stewardess did make the mistake of mentioning that Posh Spice flew by Go which led to a predictable song breaking out. The delay meant I missed the last train back to Cambridge and had to make a detour via London to get home, eventually getting back after midnight, albeit before the majority of fans who are no doubt swamping Yorkshire with the duty frees as I type this.
So all day Saturday catching up with my sleep and upto the next game tomorrow morning, I'm knackered even if the players aren't - though I hope they had less of the local beer than me. I wonder if the sights of Leicester are as good. Overall a great trip, maybe even the best yet, i can thoroughly recommend Prague, doubt Istanbul will be as friendly.
Leeds found the route to the Uefa Cup semi-finals paved with a few frights here last night but in the end achieved the purpose of their trip in style: to become the first Leeds side to reach a European semi-final since Jimmy Armfield's days in office 25 years earlier.
It was not a comfortable ride, far from it, though a well taken opening goal from Harry Kewell was sufficient to allay any real anxieties.
Defeat in the Czech capital could do little to dilute the sense of destiny developing in David O'Leary's youthful side after emerging battered and bruised, but with no lasting damage, to seal a 4-2 aggregate victory. The tantalising prospect of a European showdown against Arsenal could be delivered by today's draw.
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