The Czechs get off to a winning start at the Ice Hockey World Championship, defeating Latvia 4:2; Czech defenceman Radek Martínek is out for six weeks after suffering chilling injury; Plzeň draw against Brno, leaving window of opportunity for Sparta; Petr Čech and Chelsea have fighting chance in Premier League title race.
The Czech national hockey team won its opening game against Latvia in Group D in the Ice Hockey World Championships in Slovakia on Saturday, a successful first step in defence of the gold title from last year. The match provided plenty of action and suspense, with the Czechs outshooting Latvia but twice falling behind 1:0 and 2:1. The Czech team captain Rolínek scored the national squad’s first goal, and Eliáš scored in the 33rd minute to tie the game. The go-ahead goal was notched by Havlát and Červenka added a fourth on a breakaway with less than two minutes remaining. On Monday the Czechs face Denmark; ahead of the match here’s what player Zbyněk Michálek had to say:
“They have a good team and you know it’s going to be a tough game. We’ll want to stick to our game plan, put some pressure on them in the first period and hopefully get some goals early to make things easier for us. I know they have lots of good, young players who skate really fast, so we have to respect them and, you know, play our game.”
In related news, Czech defenceman Radek Martínek checked out of hospital in Bratislava on Sunday only a day after suffering a chilling injury in the opening period of the game versus Latvia. The defenceman was hit from behind in the head & neck area by Latvian player Kulda, losing consciousness and having to be stabilised on the ice and taken to hospital. The hit left him with a concussion and damage to his neck ligaments: he himself described the hit as “being run over by a steamroller”.
Czech team doctor Radomír Holibka said the player had been very lucky in the accident, suggesting that the injury could easily have been life-threatening. No penalty was called on the play but a review after the match saw the Latvian player issued a three-game ban. Martínek is out of the championship and will be out of action for at least the next six weeks. It is not known how long he will remain in the Czech Republic before he returns to his family in New York.
In the top Czech football league leaders Plzeň have somewhat lost their earlier edge, after dominating a good part of the season. On Saturday they only managed a 1:1 draw against Brno – their third draw out of their four last games. In the game they missed an opportunity to go 2:0 up when Rezek failed to convert on a penalty. Plzeň’s unexpected stumbles have allowed second-place Sparta to inch within five points and they’ll pull themselves to within just two points if they can win against Teplice on Monday.
The situation is not dissimilar in the English Premier League, where Manchester United are now only three points ahead of Chelsea and Czech goalkeeper Petr Čech. Manchester were beaten 1:0 by third-place Arsenal at the weekend, home to Czech national squad captain Tomáš Rosický, and will face Chelsea at Old Trafford next weekend. It will be a huge game for both teams, although Chelsea remain the outsiders. Most recently Chelsea were dispatched by Manchester United in the Champions League, now they’ll be looking for payback.
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