Czechs rescued as Heinz's late strike breaks brave Latvia

Czech Republic 2 Latvia 1

The Czech Republic were in acute danger of suffering similar, or even greater embarrassment than their hosts here yesterday when they were rescued by two goals, so untidy that they did nothing for their reputation as one of the tournament's most skilful sides.

The Czech Republic were in acute danger of suffering similar, or even greater embarrassment than their hosts here yesterday when they were rescued by two goals, so untidy that they did nothing for their reputation as one of the tournament's most skilful sides.

That, though, was the least of the worries of Karel Bruckner's players who had trailed to the Latvian outsiders for nearly half an hour, fearing no doubt, a defeat as painful and unexpected as the one Portugal endured against Greece up the road in Porto last Saturday.

Group D was supposed to be the "group of death" in which any two from three would qualify. The threesome did not include Latvia, who had never qualified for a major tournament before their surprising victory in a play-off over Turkey last November earned them the right to come to Portugal where they were supposed to be merely making up the numbers.

The fierce resistance of the men from the Baltic state suggested otherwise, however, and they ended their opening fixture by giving the 1996 runners-up the fright of their lives.

The Czechs had started brightly, the idea being presumably to notch an early goal before their opponents had settled. Time after time they carved them open down the left, with Pavel Nedved looking every bit the European Footballer of the Year. His early chip had Aleksandrs Kolinko stretching but Nedved was soon putting Marek Jankulovski in to fire an angled shot across the face of the Latvian goal. Kolinko just got a fingertip to Nedved's next cross from the opposite flank to prevent the giant Czech Jan Koller from getting in a decisive header.

Latvia suddenly confirmed that they would not be lying down when Andrejs Prohorenkovs sprinted down the right to float over a cross that was just missed by the diving Maris Verpakovskis. But that was a brief interruption in the traffic that was going increasingly one way.

Karel Poborsky, much shorter of hair these days than when he was tearing down Manchester United's wings at Old Trafford, was denied by Kolinko's flying save before Rene Bolf cantered up from central defence to head just over.

Poborsky hit a screamer just over before the Latvian defender Mihails Zemlinskis did his side no favours with a back pass that almost let in Koller. And then another mistake by Andrejs Rubins conceded possession to Poborsky, whose drive was blocked by Igors Stepanovs.

The next act of the excellent Stepanovs was to halt a run by Tomas Galasek and mastermind a goal that might have been manufactured in the Premiership. Stepanovs, who is still on Arsenal's books despite an apparent career-long loan to Beveren in Belgium, where he lines up most weekends with 10 Ivorians, sent a long pass out to Prohorenkovs on the left. His cross was perfection, inviting Verpakovskis to score from barely a yard out.

How David Jones, the manager of Wolverhampton Wanderers must have winced at that moment, seconds from the interval. Verpakovskis was on trial at Molineux before last season but, though not offered a contract, he was obviously not too distressed as he went on to score six goals for his country in their qualifying campaign, leaving Jones in charge of a doomed team.

The Czechs maintained the pressure after the interval with Milan Baros missing at the far post and Kolinko saving at the second attempt a snap shot.

But the Latvians could not hold out. When Poborsky made tracks down the right, going past Rubins and Vitalijs Astafjes, he seemed to take the ball out of play before laying on the cross that Baros, the Liverpool striker, rammed home for the 73rd-minute equaliser.

Bruckner had helped the Czech cause with a couple of astute substitutions, especially the introduction of the fair-haired striker Marek Heinz who skimmed the bar with a piledriver before hammering home the 85th minute winner.

Trevor Francis, the manager with whom Kolinko clashed at Crystal Palace, would not have been impressed with the way the goalkeeper made a rash rush from his goal to halt a raid by Baros. Zemlinskis failed to clear the loose ball which fell conveniently for Heinz.

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game