Three is the magic number for Baroš
Returning striker helps ease Baník's relegation fears
Posted: March 13, 2013
Plzeň forward Michal Ďuriš, left, fights for the ball with Fenerbahçe forward Joseph Yobo during the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 first leg match March 7.
By Chris Boothroyd
For the Post
Milan Baroš stole headlines across the country this past weekend as he led Baník Ostrava to a convincing 3-0 victory over Hradec Králové, grabbing all three goals in the process. The spotlight has firmly been on the ex-Liverpool man since his sensational return to the Bazaly Stadium, and after two workmanlike performances in his previous games, he rolled back the years to send the home supporters into dreamland.
His first two goals were utterly clinical, cutting through the opposing defense with ease, before being in the right place at the right time to complete a seventh career hat trick with the simplest of close-range finishes.
"I felt good as soon as I arrived here," Baroš told journalists afterward. "My fitness is getting better and better. After all, I hadn't played for a long time, and two or three weeks don't make up for that. I still need to start more games."
If Baroš carries this form onward, he will certainly help rejuvenate a struggling giant. Baník and Baroš go back a long way, with the 31-year-old coming through the ranks in Ostrava before making a £3.2 million move to Liverpool in 2001.
In recent months, he donated a sizeable sum to the club, before inking a deal after his departure from reigning Turkish champions Galatasaray that effectively sees him playing for free, with his salary diverted to newly formatted youth schemes organized by the club.
The victory hauls Baník up to 10th in the Gambrinus liga standings, four points off the relegation places, and if the ex-international can continue to find the net regularly then his homecoming will turn out to be an extremely smart bit of business for both club and player.
Elsewhere in the Czech top flight, Sparta clawed their way back from two goals down to snatch a 2-2 draw at home to Jablonec March 10, despite dominating for much of the game.
That result sees them lose ground on league leaders Viktoria Plzeň, who overcame Mladá Boleslav 2-0 in an ill-tempered affair that featured two dismissals and a further six yellow cards.
Meanwhile, Prague's other representatives both picked up maximum points on match day 19: Slavia's 1-0 victory over Brno was their first away triumph in 17 months, and Dukla saw off Příbram, also by a solitary goal, to further secure their top-half status.
Slavia's win will surely see some of the pressure lifted off Petr Rada's shoulders after the coach has come under some criticism in recent weeks; Martin Juhar and Vojtěch Přeučil were the goal-scorers for Slavia and Dukla, respectively.
Příbram's defeat to Dukla did signal the end of Karol Marko's reign as coach after he failed to turn around the club's fortunes with them rooted to the bottom of the table. His replacement will be a familiar one to followers of Sparta and Slavia, with František Straka taking over from the Slovak at the relegation-threatened outfit.
Football: Plzeň aim to rebound after Europa League loss
Sparta's last-minute Europa League exit at the hands of Chelsea left Viktoria Plzeň as the sole Czech representatives in the competition, but that status is in danger after a 1-0 defeat to Fenerbahçe March 7. After defeating the likes of Atlético Madrid and Napoli at home, Pavel Vrba's men put up an uncharacteristically timid display against the Turkish side.
After facing a period of prolonged pressure, they finally conceded when Pierre Webó headed in the only goal of the game eight minutes from the end, thereby slipping to a first Europa League defeat this season on their own turf.
Although Fenerbahçe were the better team on the night, Viktoria did have their chances, most noticeably a first-half flurry that saw František Rajtoral strike the crossbar, Michal Ďuriš see his shot hacked away and Pavel Horváth blaze over all within 60 seconds of each other.
"We are a bit disappointed, but it is only half-time in the tie," Plzeň forward Marek Bakoš told UEFA.com. "We will have to perform as we did when we won at Napoli. We need to be patient, and with a bit of luck we can easily get back into contention."
While Fenerbahçe have the away goal as an advantage for the return leg March 14, they will have to play the game at the Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium behind closed doors after UEFA handed down the punishment due to the behaviour of their fans at their last home tie against BATE Borisov of Belarus.
Given Sparta Praha's fight back against Chelsea in the previous round, Plzeň should take plenty of optimism with them over to Turkey and with David Limberský able to return after suspension, they should be strengthened on the pitch as well.
Chris Boothroyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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