Greece on brink after decisive Czech bounce


TWO goals inside the first six minutes kept the Czech Republic’s European Championship hopes alive and pushed Greece to the brink of elimination from Group A last night in Wroclaw.

Early strikes from Petr Jiracek and Vaclav Pilar minimised Czech fears they could suffer the ignominy of being the first team knocked out of the tournament.

And even though Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech’s handling howler handed Greece a route back into the match, which Theofanis Gekas gratefully accepted, they remain in contention to reach the quarter-finals.

Heading into their final fixture against Poland, the Czech Republic lie second in the group with three points, while Greece are in bottom place with just one.

Striker Jiracek gave the men in red the perfect start in the third minute when he ran onto a defence-splitting through-ball from Tomas Hubschman and beat Greek goalkeeper Kostas Chalkias.

The Municipal Stadium’s Czech contingent were pogoing again just moments later when Arsenal’s Tomas Rosicky fed full-back Theodor Gebre Selassie and his pull-back was bundled in by Pilar for his second of the tournament.

Greece suffered two more blows before half-time: first losing veteran stopper Chalkias to injury and then seeing a Giorgios Fotakis header ruled out for offside, despite the midfielder appearing to be level.

They were given a lifeline eight minutes after the restart when Cech, seemingly distracted by the presence of encroaching colleague Tomas Sivok, fumbled a tame cross. Gekas duly scored, but there was to be no repeat of their opening match comeback against Poland.