The Czech Republic overcame dogged resistance by Malta to secure the first win of their 2014 FIFA World Cup™ qualifying campaign in their Group B clash at the Doosan Arena in Plzen.
Theodor Gebre Selassie put the Czechs ahead in the 34th minute, but the lead lasted just four minutes before Roderick Briffa equalised for Pietro Ghedin's visitors.
Tomas Pekhart restored the hosts' advantage, though, and Jan Rezek sealed the points - but it was by no means the emphatic triumph they would have hoped for.
Malta made Italy work hard for victory last month when the UEFA EURO 2012 runners-up were less than convincing in their 2-0 win, and they proved to be stubborn opponents again tonight. There were few clear-cut chances in the opening half-hour.
Gebre Selassie had a header comfortably saved in the first five minutes but the home team produced little until the defender gave the hosts the lead in the 34th minute.
David Limbersky sent in a cross from the left byline which was met by the Werder Bremen right-back, who headed the ball into the top-left corner from close range.
However, four minutes later Malta were back on level terms thanks to their first goal of the campaign, Briffa drilling a fierce shot into the top-left corner from 20 yards.
The teams were all square at the break but six minutes later the hosts were again ahead when Petr Jiracek's cross was headed into the top-right corner by Pekhart .
And Rezek slotted home in the 67th minute to finally give the hosts some breathing space, although Petr Cech was required to save a Michael Mifsud penalty in added time.