THURSDAY 21ST AUGUST
EUROPA LEAGUE PLAYOFF – FIRST LEG
PEC ZWOLLE 1 – 1 SPARTA PRAGUE
PEC Zwolle will be ruing first half chances, including a missed penalty, as they drew their first ever game in European competition 1-1 against Czech giants Sparta Prague reports Will Burns.
Ron Jans decided to select Czech striker Tomas Necid against the club, Necid seen as his biggest rival growing up as a Slavia Prague fan. The big 6ft 3inches forward was constant thorn in Sparta’s side tonight and his performance will surely earn himself a place in Jans’ starting line-up at the weekend against Vitesse Arnhem.
Zwolle dropped Jody Lukoki to the bench and replaced him with Greek attacked Nikos Ioannidis, a summer loan signing from Olympiakos. Sparta keeper David Bičík was kept busy throughout the night and on six minutes, Ioannidis fired a great effort at the stopper after cutting in from the right wing, but Bičík held firm.
Jesper Drost then had a golden opportunity minutes later, after some great work from New Zealand winger Ryan Thomas. Thomas weaved his way into the area from the left wing and Necid controlled the 19-year-old cross into the path of Drost. Unfortunately, for the midfielder he failed to connect properly with his first time shot and scuffed his effort wide.
Necid then decided to test Bičík with a half-volley from the edge of the box after again linking up well with Thomas, however minutes later Necid had a bigger impact on the game when he was fouled in the area by Jakub Brabec. Immediately, English referee Michael Oliver pointed to the spot but Maikel van der Werff hit a poor penalty as Bičík easily saved the spot-kick.
The visitors only had one real chance before half-time when Pavel Kadeřábek latched onto a mistake by Zwolle goalie Diederik Boer. The right-back crossed for Costa Nhamoinesu in the centre, but the Zimbabwean sliced his shot and Boer recovered to save on the line. Further efforts from Necid and long range efforts from Thomas and Mustafa Saymak tested Bičík but the sides went into the break goal-less.
Ron Jans decided to bring on the tricky Jody Lukoki on at the interval for Ioannidis to give his side more creativity on the right-wing. However, it was the Czechs that should have taken the lead nine minutes after the restart. Veteran striker David Lafata had a great chance just before the hour-mark but Drost got back to clear off the line.
Minutes after Bart van Hintum had flashed a shot across goal, substitute Jody Lukoki gave the hosts the lead, their first ever goal in Europe. After a great exchange of passes between Lukoki, Necid and Drost, the former Ajax winger was on hand to tap home to make it 1-0.
The Ijsseldelta Stadion exploded however, the atmosphere was cut short by Sparta’s equaliser four minutes later. The impressive Kamil Vacek, a recent on-loan signing from Chievo, sped down the right wing and beat Van Hintum with ease. Vacek cut back to Ladislav Krejčí in the box whose shot clipped off Van der Werff and past Boer in goal to level the game up and give Prague that all important away goal.
Tomas Necid may have won the game for Zwolle after his free header from Lukoki’s corner was well wide with minutes to go. The game finished all square and Zwolle has to get at least one goal over in Prague next Thursday to qualify further.
ZWOLLE: Boer, Van Polen, Sainsbury, Van der Werff, Van Hintum, Rienstra, Saymak, Ioannidis (Lukoki 46), Drost, Thomas (Nijland 65), Necid.
SUBS NOT USED: De Jong, Dekker, Moro, Pereira, Lam.
GOALS: Lukoki 77.
BOOKINGS: Lukoki 77, Van Polen 86.
SPARTA PRAGUE: Bičík, Kadeřábek, Kovac, Brabec, Nhamoinesu, Marecek, Husbauer (Prikryl 66), Matejovsky, Dockal (Vacek 76), Lafata (Bednar 90+2), Krejci.
SUBS NOT USED: Stech, Svejdik, Konaté, Breznanik.
GOALS: Krejci 82.
BOOKINGS: Matejovsky 57.
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