A stunning second half volley from Libor Holik helped The Czech Republic on their way to a 2-0 victory over Georgia in Tbilisi yesterday to dump the host nation out of the tournament.
The fast-paced encounter was played out in front of a capacity crowd at The Mikheil Meskhi Stadioni, but the majority would leave the stadium in heartbreak as their Georgia side were eliminated from Group A. However, it was to be the Georgians who made the faster start in their capital city and could have led early, but Luka Lakvekheliani’s cross was just too high for Davit Samurkasovi. The first-half would be a tale of missed for the host nation, with the likes of Giorgi Kokhreidze and Giorgi Arabidze the early missed chance culprits.
As the first period progressed, the dangerous Georgian forward Kokhreidze was soon running the show and his fantastic strength won the men in white a prosperous free-kick on the edge of the area. However, the opportunity was wasted by Arabidze, but the 18-year-old continued to create and came close to breaking the deadlock when he cut in and fired a shot straight at Czech keeper Martin Jedlicka. Characteristically in the competition, it would be The Czechs who made the faster start in games, but this time the boys in red took their time to grow into the tie. The Czechs also did not have the added pressures of playing a must-win game in their own country and this started to show when Ondrej Chveja narrowly failed to get on the end of a delicious delivery into the box. The 18-year-old was at it again when he worked space in the box, but his low shot was well saved by Giorgi Chochishvili in the Georgian net.
Czech Republic forward Daniel Turyna was outstanding in the Match Day One victory over Sweden and nearly added to his goal tally when he had his close-range header saved by Chochishvili. Jan Suchoparek’s side were coming closer and closer to finding the opening goal of the decisive clash and it would finally come, on the stroke of half-time. Georgia’s zonal marking system has been widely criticised throughout the tournament and it would turn out to be the Achilles-heel of the hosts. Michal Sadilek delivered a corner from the right side for The Czech Republic, skipper Ondrej Sasinka was left completely unmarked in the box to cleverly direct an accurate header into the bottom corner of the Georgian net. The goal would prove to be a sucker-punch for the home favourites who they now faced an uphill battle to qualify in the second-half.
Just like they did at the start of the game, George Kipiani’s side started the second period as the stronger team. Key chances from Arabidze went begging early in the half, these included two dangerous free-kicks that he blasted over and an effort from a tight angle that struck the side-netting. As the Georgian pressure continued, the team in red needed to take some measures to stem the tide of attack and this came in the form of replacing Chveja with Denis Granecny. The substitute had an instant impact, winning a corner on the right side with some positive hard work. The set-piece was again delivered by Sadilek and yet again the PSV man would find one of his teammates in acres of space. The man who was free this time in the Georgian box was full-back Libor Holik, and the Slavia Praha man was on hand to lash a first-time volley that snuck into the net at the near post and will be a strong contender for Goal of the Tournament. The strike would really take the wind out of the host nation’s sails and prove to be the deadly blow that dampened their spirit. The goal was also bizarrely followed by a ten-minute suspension of the match because of an object that had been thrown onto the pitch by disgruntled Georgia fans.
Nevertheless, the game was resumed just under ten-minutes later, as the hosts desperately looked for some route back into their tournament. Much like the rest of the game, the cream of Georgia’s late chances would fall to Arabidze, as the Shaktar Donetsk man had two more long-range efforts saved by Jedlicka. The boys in white thought they had clawed back a lifeline when substitute Vato Arveladze turned in a cross from close range, but the offside flag had already been raised. It was to be tears and heartbreak for Georgia at the full-time whistle as they went crashing out of the tournament and some may feel that the hosts played well enough to progress from group A, but missed chances were the tale of the competition for the Georgians. Nevertheless, what dedicated Football fan can seriously say that they didn’t enjoy the aggressive and exciting play that was adopted by the host nation in their three group games?
On the flip side, it was to be jubilation at the conclusion of the game for The Czech Republic, as they qualify for The Semi-Finals in second place with six points from group A. Suchoparek’s men are now likely to face Keith Downing’s England in the semis which will be played in three days-time.