Third bottom in the First League, FC Slovan Liberec threw out the form book to beat FK Jablonec in the all-Bohemian final and lift the Czech Cup for the second time.
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FC Slovan Liberec beat regional rivals FK Jablonec on penalties in the Czech Cup final to lift the trophy for the second time, with the North Bohemia club earning the chance to repeat their UEFA Europa League group stage heroics of 2006/07 and 2013/14 via the qualifiers.
If anything, Jablonec entered today's final in Mlada Boleslav as favourites after winning – for the first time – both derbies against their Bohemian rivals in the First League, in which they lie third compared with Slovan Liberec's third-bottom ranking. However, Liberec goalkeeper Lukáš Hroššo conceded only one of Jablonec's fourth attempts in the shoot-out that followed an exciting 1-1 draw.
In a match contested by clubs whose cities are a mere tram ride apart, Jablonec's attacking endeavours brought the opening goal in the 38th minute when Jan Kopic's corner found Martin Doležal unmarked at the back post and the 25-year-old forward headed in from close range.
Dzon Delarge might have equalised directly from the restart but his first shot was brilliantly saved by Michal Špit, with his follow-up flying wide. In 73rd minute Liberec's Michal Breznaník also failed to finish off a solo run to goal.
Four minutes from time, however, Liberec's second-half dominance paid off when substitute attacker Marek Bakoš got in front of Špit to knock in a long cross from Martin Sus and force penalties. Hroššo was beaten just the once whereas David Vavruška's team managed to score three from the spot, so claiming the trophy for the first time since 1999/2000 and the second overall.
"I honestly believed we would win the shoot-out after the way the match had gone. The mental advantage was ours. When a team loses the lead so late it is hard, because they felt they had the cup in their hands," Vavruška said. "We are used to playing in Europe and this was our last chance to qualify – we felt obliged to take this opportunity," added the 42-year-old, appointed in March with Slovan in relegation trouble.
The consolation for Jablonec is that they will accompany the winners into the UEFA Europa League having secured third position in the top flight.