Brilliant Czechs bounce into last eight
By Mark Kendall
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Czech Republic came from two goals down to beat Holland 3-2, and book their place in the quarter finals in undoubtedly the game of the tournament so far.
In a match of unrelenting action and quality Liverpool's Vladimir Smicer grabbed a dramatic winner two minutes from time to shatter Dutch dreams.
Goals from Wilfred Bouma and Ruud van Nistelrooy had put Dick Advocaat's men in control, but after Jan Koller had reduced the arrears Milan Baros restored parity with a wonderful volley before Smicer added the coup de grace.
The Czechs could have gone ahead in the first minute when a chipped through ball from Tomas Rosicky played in Jan Koller, but the giant hit-man blazed his volley over bar from 12 yards.
Moments later Marek Jankulovski then did superbly to skip past a challenge on the edge of the box but scuffed his shot when he could have taken the ball on further.
On four minutes Holland hit the front. Pavel Nedved fouled Andy van der Meyde on the right touchline, and from the resulting free-kick Arjen Robben swung over a deep cross to the unmarked Wilfred Bouma at the far post who planted his header past Petr Cech and into the far corner.
Clarence Seedorf was inches away from doubling the Dutch advantage but his superb 25-yard free-kick clipped the outside of the post with Cech rooted to the spot.
The Milan midfielder was not quite so accurate with his next long-range effort, dragging well wide after van Nistelrooy had laid intelligently into his path 20 yards from goal.
Robben tested Chelsea team-mate-to-be Cech with an effort from the edge of the box but the custodian gathered comfortably.
However, moments later Robben was instrumental in Holland's second goal which was tinged with controversy. After a failed attack van Nistelrooy was ambling back to an on-side position when Edgar Davids played in Robben down the left who squared for the Manchester United poacher to slot home from six yards with the Czech defence unable to retreat in time.
Karel Bruckner's men found a way back into the game on 23 minutes, but were given a helping hand by the Dutch.
Philip Cocu's misplaced pass let in Baros who ran at Stam and got the better of the Milan stopper before showing good awareness to lay square into the path of the unmarked Koller who sidefooted home from six yards.
Van Nistelrooy could have earned a penalty on the half-hour mark. After controlling superbly on the edge of the box the striker appeared to be impeded by Tomas Ujfalusi as he attempted to turn and shoot, but Dutch protests were waved away.
Two minutes later Cech produced a miraculous save from Johnny Heitinga's blistering 30-yard drive, diving full length to tip the ball - destined for the top corner - over the bar for a corner.
Seedorf went close again from distance with a rasping 30-yard drive that flew agonisingly wide with Cech a mere spectator.
Nedved then showed superb strength and skill in the box to beat both Davids and Bouma before feeding Poborsky whose drilled low cross was flicked wide of the target by Koller.
There was still time in a breathless first period for Davids to crash a fierce low drive against a post with Cech again beaten all ends up.
The second half continued in exactly the same vein with van der Meyde who breaking clear into the penalty area, but the Internazionale man played a weak cross too close to Cech with van Nistelrooy waiting to pounce.
In the blink of an eye the Czechs highlight raced up the other end with a lightening break which culminated in Karel Poborsky drilling in a low shot which Edwin van der Sar was happy to palm out.
The Fulham keeper then had to be alert to gather Nedved's left-foot volley from distance.
On 56 minutes Robben produced more mesmeric wing play before standing up a superb left-wing cross to van Nistelrooy whose header was scrambled wide by Cech.
Indeed, most of the crowd were left bemused by Holland boss Dick Advocaat's decision to replace the winger with Paul Bosvelt moments later.
Czech substitute Marek Heinz then teed up Vladimir Smicer after a good run down the left but the Liverpool star was left holding his head after his shot from the penalty spot was brilliantly tipped around the post by van der Sar.
Twenty minutes from time and the Czechs drew level. Nedved floated a cross on to the chest of Koller who laid back for Baros to thunder home a flashing volley that van der Sar got a finger to but could only help on its way into the top corner.
Before most of the crowd had got their breath back Van der Meyde almost restored the Dutch lead but was denied by Cech who saved with his feet - deflecting the ball wide for a corner.
Heitinga was unlucky to receive his marching orders on 75 minutes when he was shown his second yellow card after a debatable foul on Nedved.
From the resulting free-kick Nedved hammered in a superb long-range effort that van der Sar pushed into the path of David Rozehnal, but the keeper was alert enough to save the substitute's effort.
Nedved almost capped of a man-of-the-match display by coming agonisingly close to sealing the victory with an effort fit to have won any match. The Juventus star picked up possession in the centre circle before heading towards goal and firing a magnificent swerving 35-yard shot which cannoned off the bar and into the path of Baros who could only head the rebound over.
The reprieve was only temporary, however. Van der Sar produced another top quality save from Heinz's low 20-yard effort, but the ball broke to Poborsky who showed wonderful presence of mind to square for Smicer to slide home from no more than four yards.
There was still time for substitute Rafael van der Vaart to miss a gilt-edged chance from Giovanni van Bronckhorst's deep cross, but the Czechs held on for a memorable victory in one of the games of this, or any other, European Championship.