The Czech Republic outwitted England 2-1 in a tense affair at the Sinobo Stadium in Prague. The hosts raced off the blocks and immediately attacked down the wings.
However, against the run of play, England went ahead when Raheem Sterling was tripped in the penalty area. Harry Kane stepped up and dispatched the spot-kick clinically, handing the visitors the advantage.
Yet, their lead was short-lived as Jakub Brabec restored parity in the ninth minute after a melee off a corner. The hosts created a few more chances in the first half but failed to make the net ripple, meaning that the teams went in level at the break.
The Czechs kept pushing and probing after the restart and saw a few of their shots brilliantly saved by Jordan Pickford. However, they ultimately breached the English defensive line five minutes from time when Zdenek Ondrasek calmly slotted the ball into the bottom corner.
The visitors tried to salvage a point thereafter but their efforts were in vain as the home side held on for a vital victory at home.
Here is a look at the talking points from the game.
#5 Czech Republic’s bravery stuns England in the first half
A few months ago, the pair had clashed at Wembley and the Three Lions thumped their Czech counterparts 5-0. Thus, when both sides were slated to play out another instalment of a lopsided rivalry, several expected normal service to resume and the visitors to notch a routine victory.
Yet, the hosts took the game to England, rather than according their illustrious rivals a little too much respect, something they were guilty of in the reverse fixture.
Czech Republic began the game in the ascendancy and immediately put the away side under pressure. However, the Three Lions managed to stitch together a substantial offensive move which led to Sterling winning a penalty. Kane converted the resulting spot-kick to nudge England ahead.
However, the hosts hit back almost instantly and continued their dominance throughout the opening 45 minutes.
The Czech Republic were willing to venture forward and outnumber the English defenders in attacking positions. More refreshingly though, they showcased plenty of confidence on the ball and were exemplary in their quick exchange of passes in the middle third.
Additionally, the front quartet regularly interchanged positions, meaning that the visitors’ rear-guard found it hard to track each runner.
And, though England established some sort of order towards the end of the period, there was no denying that the first half was controlled by the hosts.