Sparta Praha just may be for real
The emotional celebration that followed the team’s 1-0 triumph over Werder Bremen Nov. 4 demonstrated that the players were just as stunned as everyone else when they decisively eliminated the Cup Winners’ Cup defending champions with a 4-2 aggregate score.
But the victory, and the team’s previous 3-2 defeat of Bremen could not be written off as a few lucky breaks for the Prague team. In both games, Sparta showed that it can compete head to head with the best in European soccer and not be intimidated by a rival’s reputation.
Now the team has nearly four months before its skills are put to the European test. The team is scheduled for a March. 3 quarterfinal contest against the Italian club A.C. Milan.
Another Czechoslovak club, Sigma Olomouc, also triumphed in a European competition match last week with a 7-1 drubbing (7-2 on aggregate) of Fenerbache Istanbul.
Slovan Bratislava, the third Czechoslovak team in European competition, fell to a strong A.C. Milan, 4-0, in Milan. The loss knocks Bratislava out of the European Champions Cup.
A near-capacity crowd of 29,704 packed Sparta Stadium for the Sparta-Werder Bremen match. After the fireworks that greeted Sparta’s entrance gave way to a blue smoke bomb that engulfed one of the goals, the match quickly took on a familiar pattern. Bremen, 3-2 losers in the first leg, pushed players forward at every opportunity, while Sparta, playing with a reorganized defense and without regular captain Josef Chovanec, sat on its lead and hit Bremen on the counterattack.
Sparta’s tactic paid off in the seventh minute when Horst Siegl fired a low shot from inside the penalty box that went between the legs of the Bremen goalkeeper.
After the goal, the German team pressed Sparta with high passes in the middle. But it was Sparta, relying on the quickness of players such as Siegl Frydek, Jiri Nemec, Roman Vonasek and Lumir Mistr, that continued to have scoring opportunities.
Bremen pushed forward, but rarely threatened to score. In the dying minutes of the match, Bremen was reduced to 10 men due to a penalty.After the final whistle, elated Sparta players took a victory lap around the field, bowing to the spectators and stopping to acknowledge a loyal crowd of red, yellow and blue-garbed fanatics in the south end of the stadium.