Turkey comeback stuns Czechs
Late Nihat double snatches quarter-final berth
By Ben Collins. Last Updated: June 15, 2008 10:47pm
Nihat: Celebrates dramatic equaliser
Turkey snatched a place in the quarter-finals of Euro 2008 after Nihat Kahveci's late double completed one of the most remarkable comebacks in the comeptition's history.
Czech Republic looked destined to be the second team to qualify from Group A after Jan Koller and Jaroslav Plasil scored either side of the break to give them a 2-0 lead with 28 minutes left to play.
Arda Turan pulled one back with 15 minutes remaining before an uncharacteristic blunder by Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech gifted Nihat an 87th-minute equaliser.
An historic penalty shoot-out loomed in Geneva but Nihat had other ideas, producing a sensational strike in the 89th minute to stun the Czechs and give Turkey a shock lead.
There was more drama to come in stoppage time as Turkey goalkeeper Volkan Demirel was sent off for pushing Koller, but the Czechs failed to test stand-in keeper Tuncay Sanli and Turkey celebrated a stunning turn-around.
The Turks will now face Group B winners Croatia in Vienna on Friday, although they will be without Volkan and midfielder Mehmet Aurelio through suspension.
Shoot-out in store
There would have been a shoot-out if the match ended in a draw as both teams would have had identical records but it looked long odds against that prospect the way Turkey played in the first half.
They were dreadful and looked a team gripped by nerves as they failed to trouble Cech in the opening 45 minutes.
The more experienced Czechs, semi-finalists at Euro 2004, looked assured from the off and should have been more than a goal ahead at the interval.
Koller, back in the starting line-up after being benched for the 3-1 defeat to Portugal, was at the hub of most of his team's attacks and he headed Marek Jankulovski's free-kick over the bar when well positioned in the 10th minute.
Marek Matejovsky, who was carried off on a stretcher in the 37th minute, drew a decent save out of Volkan while Servet Cetin made a great last-gasp clearance to prevent Koller scoring a simple tap-in.
It was one-way traffic, the ever-dangerous Libor Sionko firing just over from the diagonal in the 25th minute as the nervous Turks continued to relinquish possession.
The goal the Czechs deserved came nine minutes later, Juventus full-back Zdenek Grygera galloping down the right and crossing for Koller to power home a trademark header in emphatic style from eight yards out.
That was his 55th international goal and the Nurnberg targetman, who will quit playing for his national team after the Euros, almost made it 56 when he nodded over from another Jankulovski free-kick.
The Turkey players trudged off heads down at the half-time whistle and would no doubt have been given the hairdryer treatment by coach Fatih Terim in the dressing room.
Terim replaced anonymous striker Semih Senturk with midfielder Sabri Sarioglu at the interval, and the change paid dividends as the Turks began the second half well under rainy skies.
Nihat volleyed over acrobatically two minutes in while Tuncay deflected a free-kick straight at Cech.
The Czechs suddenly looked tentative but Plasil settled any nerves with their second just after the hour mark.
Moments earlier, Koller had sidefooted wastefully wide with just Volkan to beat but Osasuna midfielder Plasil did much better when he got on the end of Sionko's right-wing cross to prod home at the far post.
The goal initially took the wind out of Turkey's sails and midfielder Jan Polak almost made it 3-0 when he sidefooted Sionko's cross against the post from 10 yards.
But it was not all over. Arda set up a tense final 15 minutes when he slid home a low finish past Cech after pouncing on a Hamit Altintop centre.
And after Servet somehow headed wide from close range in the 81st minute, Cech spilled a deep cross from the right, allowing Nihat to tap the equaliser into an empty net with three minutes remaining.
Worse was to come for Cech when two minutes later, Nihat made the most of some dreadful defending to latch onto Altintop's neat through-ball and curl home a superb finish off the bar.
In the final few seconds, Volkan saw red after clashing with Koller but Turkey held on for a dramatic victory.
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