Slavia Prague and Sparta Prague men’s teams split the points in an ugly 1-1 draw that saw two red cards and 11 yellow cards at Slavia’s Fortuna Arena. Both teams entered at 22 points; meaning each were undefeated with seven wins and one draw. A win for either team would see them ahead in the standings.
From the first whistle, neither team could gain any momentum. Frequent fouls and balls out of play caused a frazzled, rhythmless affair.
“There were probably more fouls than nice play,” said Sparta manager Brian Priske, after the match.
The first half was dominated by Sparta striker Victor Olatunji. After a hard foul, him putting his ear up to the booing Slavia fans caused a roar among the home crowd. The loudest the stadium got in the first half were jeers and whistles directed at him as he went down softly in the box, causing the play to stop. The only time it got close was when he finally got booked.
The atmosphere was electric. Slavia drums beat and songs belted across the field of play from kickoff to the final whistle. Flares were set off, lighting up the all black-clad supporters. Even though neither team had good opportunities, the crowd never wavered for the first half.
Halftime did nothing to temper the emotions. In the 55th minute, Muhamed Tijani went down in the box, earning a penalty that was swiftly converted in the 58th minute by Václav Jurečka. As he reeled towards the corner flag in celebration, the lights dimmed, music played, and the crowd was deafening.
Sparta seemed to wake up with newfound energy to every attacking move after conceding. But after a penalty that was fiercely debated, it was only a matter of time before things got ugly.
“Games sometimes get out of hand, and I think today, we all witnessed a game that got out of hand, it was unfortunately more about the fights,” said Priske.
Pushing and rough challenges were common throughout the match, but it came to a head in the 87th minute when Slavia’s Mojmir Chytil attempted to dispossess Sparta Keeper Peter Vindahl, tripping him in the process. As Chytil lay on the ground, Vindahl leaned down over him, yelling. The brawl that ensued left Jan Boril and Ladislav Krejci with red cards for grabbing each other’s throats.
As the fight continued, explosions were heard throughout the stadium. The away section, which is fenced off and heavily guarded by stadium attendants to prevent violent confrontations between fans, had begun throwing firecrackers over the fence at home fans. Firefighters were quickly at the scene and players rushed over to chastise their fans.
In the dying moments of the game, Slavia thought they found an insurance goal with a quick counter to Mojmir Chytil, only for the referee to chalk off the goal after checking the monitors. Before the counter attack, Slavia defender Igoh Ogbu had deflected the cross with his arm. Instead of going up 2-0, Sparta now had the chance to salvage a point with the final kick.
The penalty was hammered into the side netting, with the keeper throwing himself the wrong way. Sparta fans rejoiced, and the rest of the stadium fell silent. More firecrackers were thrown.
“To play the derby away, it was an important point for us, if we couldn’t win, to at least get a point,” said Priske in his happiness with the result, despite the hostile environment at Fortuna Arena.
These points could prove vital come the end of the season. Last year, both teams tied at 78 points with Sparta winning the league title. Every result matters in such a close race.
The teams will not meet again in the league until March 2nd. Both teams will hope for a more fluid game, with Sparta hoping that they can take advantage of the friendlier environment at home.