The Czech hockey team continues streak at the World Championships with wins over Slovakia and Russia; Czech tennis player Kvitová breaks into the women’s top ten for the first time; League-leaders Plzeň defeat Mladá Boleslav to retain three point lead over Sparta; defending Premier League champions Petr Čech and Chelsea suffer defeat against Manchester United; Kenyan runners dominate Prague International Marathon.
The Czech hockey team will finish top in the qualification round at the Ice Hockey World Championships after winning their fourth and fifth straight games in the tournament on Friday and Sunday. On Friday, the Czechs added to host Slovakia’s woes, winning 3:2; two days later they won again against Russia by the same score.
Of the two games, the match against Russia was the tougher affair: although the Czech Republic controlled the puck and began better, jumping in the first period to a quick 2:0 lead on goals by team captain Rolinek and Jaromír Jágr, the Russians fought hard. Most controversially, the 196 centimetre tall, 112 kilogram Yevgeni Artyukhin went on a hitting spree midway through the game, targeting three Czech players, and injuring two of them: left wing Milan Michálek and defenceman Karel Rachůnek. Neither player completed the match.
When Russia pulled within one goal, the Czechs were able to respond: Tomáš Plekanec was taken down on a breakaway in front of the Russian goalie and awarded a penalty shot which he converted. It was 3:1. The Russians would score one more in the final period but the Czechs would hang on. After the match, here is what Czech goalie Ondřej Pavelec had to say:
“Each win increases your confidence and I am glad we took this game and that we remain unbeaten. But of course the toughest match is still ahead and we have to prepare for it. I’m happy we won this one, it wasn’t easy, and I hope our run will continue.”
The Czech team plays one more match in Group E on Monday – against Germany – before moving on to the elimination round.
In Madrid in the weekend, twenty-one year old Czech tennis player Petra Kvitová won her 3rd ATP title this season, a run which for the first time in her career places the player in the tenth spot in the women’s top ten. Over the last twelve months she has moved remarkably up from 62nd spot. The tournament in Madrid saw Kvitová down players like world number 5 Azarenka, sixth seed Li Na, and world number 3 Zvonareva. Kvitová becomes only the sixth Czech female player to make the top ten, following players like Navratilová, Novotná and Vaidišová. Her complete record for 2011 so far has been 25 matches won, 5 lost.
In football, league-leaders Plzeň recovered from a recent show of poorer form to defeat Mladá Boleslav to remain three points ahead of their nearest rivals Sparta Prague. The team clinched a 3:1 win and received praise from visiting now retired football legend Pavel Nedvěd, in the Czech Republic to launch a new publication of his memoirs. Plzeň’s win was mandatory for the club considering a day earlier Sparta had pulled within a single point by defeating Liberec.
Sunday saw a key match-up between Manchester United and London club Chelsea, home to star keeper Petr Čech, which effectively decided this year’s Premier league title race. As the goalie admitted on his personal website after the game, Chelsea is now out of the running. The side was defeated at Old Trafford by a score of 2:1. Both goals came on mistakes in the Chelsea defence, the first strike in just 36 seconds. And although Chelsea were able to get one back by Lampard, it was Manchester who looked masterful throughout the match, making the finish almost a foregone conclusion. United now only need one more point in two games to take the title, leaving the defending champions in the dust. Goalkeeper Čech stressed it was not the key game on Sunday that ‘decided’ the title, but poor performance by the club at the end of last year as well as January.
The streets of the Czech capital on Sunday belonged to thousands of runners from around the world who participated in the annual Prague International Marathon. The first to cross the finish line in the men’s race were three Kenyans led by long-distance runner Benson Kipchumba Barus, who set a new personal record at 2:07:08. Second place was taken by Kenneth Mburu Mungara and third by Samuel Kiplimo Kosgei, who was in the race for the first time. The women’s race was won as expected by Kenyan Lydia Cheromei, who set a new track record at 2:22:34, breaking that of second place contender Helena Kirop, also of Kenya.
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