Stories and pictures of the beautiful game.
AC Sparta Praha vs. Olympique Lyon 1:1 (0:0)
November 22, 2012 | attendance: 17,121 | pictures
My first two Sparta games were somewhat disappointing. During a 2010 Champions League qualifier against Liepäjas Metalurgs it was the dozen away fans that saved an otherwise quiet night with their never ending somewhat self-deprecating chants, and in a 2011 derby against fellow army club Dukla, the cold weather, lack of goals and atmosphere did not help either. To top it all off, both games did not even fill the stadium halfway. Would it be “third time’s the charm” tonight at Sparta’s Europe League match against Olympique Lyon?
It was – in every way possible: on the one hand, it was not freezing cold this time, and my seat in the section across the main stand had space heaters installed. Not very green but if you’ve ever frozen your toes off in a stadium you appreciate the gesture. And on the other hand, the stadium was packed today: 17,121 came to cheer Sparta on to the knockout-round. All it would take was a draw against the French who comfortably sat at the top of the table and could afford to leave some of their best players at home.
Sparta’s Ultras were very active throughout the game and managed to get the rest of the stadium going quite often. At kick-off they displayed choreography of red and gold glitter, and later they unveiled a red Sparta knight at a table, forking a frog and a snail with the caption: “Bon Apétit.” It wouldn’t be a piece of cake, though: both teams were very cautious in the first half but still fought with intensity and kept the referee busy booking players. The only highlights came from Sparta’s Leonard Kweuke who tried two bicycle kicks probably in the hope to be the next Ibrahimovic or Mexes. He was rewarded with “Leo! Leo!” chants.
The second half started with a bang, as Lyon scored only 20 seconds in. The stadium went silent but for the small group of French travelers. While Sparta’s chants turned a bit into a monotonous background drone in the first half (“Sparta Praha olé olé olé!”), they were clearly amiss for just a few minutes after the goal. The team helped to restore the atmosphere by taking control of the game and putting pressure on Lyon.
It started with a few “Sparta! Sparta!” chants and turned into a thunderous roar when Tomas Prikyl, who had just come on, raced down the right wing and served the ball to Josef Husbauer who put it in the back of the net. The Ultras lit a little bonfire, and emotions flared up as Sparta kept control of the game. They did not manage to create any real danger, though and both teams seemed eager to keep the status quo, so it was up to the fans to seek entertainment elsewhere: four Mexican waves went through the entire stadium, including the away section. After the final whistle, players and fans celebrated for a long time, and Sparta let them do that without interruption. Only after the players had eventually left the pitch, did they turn the music back on.
Czech out www.facebook.com/GroundhoppingEtc for the full gallery.