KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- Czech Republic, runners-up in 1996, reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2020 after ruthlessly capitalising on the red card which reduced Netherlands to 10 men in their round of 16 clash in Budapest.
Denmark and Italy had qualified for the quarter-finals on Saturday and the Czechs were encouraged to join them when Dutch centre back Matthijs de Ligt was sent off with the game was still goalless soon after the interval.
The Czechs then proved ruthless. Tomas Holes headed them in front before laying on a second goal for top scorer Patrik Schick.
The first half had been tight with few chances and control ebbing and flowing between the two teams.
The best opening fell to the Czech shortly before half-time when Antonin Barsak broke through on the right but saw his close-range shot deflected over the bar for a corner.
Nine minutes after the interval came the dramatic turning points.
First Netherlands should have taken the lead only for Donyell Malen, having sprinted clear between the two Czech central defenders, hesitated for a split-second which allowed goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik to save at his feet.
The Czechs raced away on the counter-attack and De Ligt fell in front of the breaking Schick and hooked the ball clear with his hand.
Russian referee Sergey Karasev showed the defender a yellow card but then, on VAR advice, changed it to red.
The decision clearly shattered Dutch nerves, their most experienced players shrunk and the Czechs grew in belief. Pavel Kaderabek had a close-range shot cleared out of the goal area by Denzel Dumfries then keeper Stekelenburg fumbled a cross behind his byline.
When the Czechs pressed again they forced a free kick on the right which was nodded back across goal by Tomas Kalas for Holes to head home.
That was in the 68th minute. Some 12 minutes later Holes escaped again, drawing the despairing Dutch defenders and slipping the ball square for Schick to put the Czechs 2-0 ahead and into the last eight.
Jaroslav Šilhavý, Czech Republic coach: “I am really proud of my team. We have defeated a tough opponent and, tactically, all of my players were excellent. I am glad we achieved the victory in front of so many of our fans.”
Tomáš Holeš, Czech Republic: “I mainly have defensive tasks in the game, and sometimes I use that to my advantage because defenders don’t mark me. I am happy that I played well tonight.”
Frank de Boer, Netherlands coach: “They were difficult opponents, but I thought that we were better until the red card. We dominated the game. Denzel [Dumfries] reached the byline a couple of times in the first half and so did Patrick [van Aanholt]. But in each case, the final ball could have been better.”
Netherlands: Stekelenburg – Dumfries, De Vrij, De Ligt, Blind (Timber 81), Van Aanholt (Berghuis 81) – De Roon (Weghorst 73), Wijnaldum, F. de Jong – Depay, Malen (Promes 57).
Czech Republic: Vaclík – Coufal, Čelůstka, Kalas, Kadeřábek – Holeš (Král 85), Souček – Masopust (Jankto 79), Barák (Sadílek 90+2), Ševčík (Hložek 85) – Schick (Krmenčík 90+2).
Referee: Karasev (Rus).