Jiracek stamps Czech EURO ticket
Petr Jiracek scored the only goal of the night as the Czech Republic sealed their berth to UEFA EURO 2012 with a 1-0 victory over Montenegro on Tuesday for a 3-0 aggregate scoreline in their play-off.
The Czechs - semi-finalists in 2004 - had all but ensured they reached next year's finals being co-hosted by Poland and Ukraine with a 2-0 win in last Friday's first leg in Prague. Jiracek, playing his sixth international game, fooled three defenders and beat Montenegro keeper Mladen Bozovic with a low shot from ten metres after 81 minutes in what was his team's only scoring chance of the game.
The EURO runners-up from 1996 and bronze medalists from 2004 have secured their fifth consecutive European Championships appearance. Montenegro, who held England to two draws in the qualifying group, will have to wait to qualify for their first major tournament after they became UEFA's youngest member in 2006 following independence from Serbia.
The home side dominated the first half, which brought tight defence and far more fouls than chances. Montenegro midfielder Dejan Damjanovic had the only scoring opportunity of the first 45 minutes, but he sent his low left-foot shot from 15 metres just past the post.
Tomas Sivok created problems for Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech early in the game with his attempt to head the ball from dangerously-close range to the Chelsea keeper who had a hard time taming the pass in front of the goal.
Montenegro's dominance was even more obvious in the second half as Juventus striker Mirko Vucinic set up Demjanovic for a right-footed shot in the 50th minute, but the FC Seoul midfielder slammed the ball into the bar. Vucinic had great chances himself, but he first headed over the bar from two metres, and then his two quick shots from close were stopped and cleared by Cech.
Montenegro coach Branko Brnovic was without suspended defender Milan Jovanovic and midfielder Milorad Pekovic, as well as midfielder Simon Vukcevic, who started on the bench after breaking his nose in a pre-game practice.
Vukcevic came on in the second half wearing a mask similar to that sported by Cech, who broke his nose following a hit from Chelsea teammate Ashley Cole in a Premier League game at Blackburn ten days ago.