Euro 2024 qualifying roundup: Czech Republic overpower Poland, Serbia start with a win

Euro 2024 qualifying roundup: Czech Republic overpower Poland, Serbia start with a win
Ladislav Krejci was on target for Czech Republic, scoring in the first minute of the game
Ladislav Krejci was on target for Czech Republic, scoring in the first minute of the game
Czech Republic went on an early rampage to take charge of Group E with a 3-1 win over Poland in Friday night's Euro 2024 qualifying action. Elsewhere there were wins for Serbia, Austria and Greece.

Czech Republic 3 Poland 1

In a meeting between the two favourites in European Championship Qualifying Group E, Euro’ 96 runners-up Czech Republic convincingly beat Poland 3-1 for their fourth win in the last five games.

The Czech Republic got off to a dream start, as Ladislav Krejci flew through the air to head Vladimir Coufal’s long throw past Wojciech Szczesny under 30 seconds into his third international appearance.

There was no slowing down for the hosts, with Jaroslav Silhavý’s two debutants linking up in a devastating fashion.

A smooth move culminated in David Jurasek’s fizzed cross being clinically finished by Tomas Cvancara, who kept up his superb goalscoring form with that strike, which marked his seventh goal in as many games for club and country.

Adding to Fernando Santos’ frustrations on his first match as Poland manager, he was forced to withdraw Matty Cash a mere nine minutes into proceedings. Even so, a strong save from Jiri Pavlenka was required to deny Sebastian Szymanski after good work from Robert Lewandowski, with Poland beginning to get more of a hold on the game as the half progressed.

However, the Czechs defended resolutely and even came close to a third before the break, with a superb double-save from Szczesny halting Cvancara.

Fernando Santos made two more changes at the break, and Poland got off to a far better start in the second half than they had in the first, although an impressively organised Czech backline nullified any potential threat.

The hosts were also proving effective in attack, and Jan Kuchta drifted off Jakub Kiwior’s shoulder to turn home Alex Kral’s low ball shortly after the hour mark, completing a hat-trick of Sparta Prague players scoring on the night.

There was a late Poland consolation when Damian Szymanski’s intelligent finish beat Pavlenka, but Czech Republic comfortably ended a run of five competitive matches without a win to go top of Group E, boosting hopes of continuing their record of appearing in every Euros final tournament since becoming an independent nation.

Meanwhile, Poland lost for just the second time in their last eight away matches and will look to get their first points on the board against Albania.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Tomas Soucek (Czech Republic)

Serbia 2 Lithuania 0

Serbia continued their proud unbeaten record in the opening match of a European qualifying campaign as an independent state, after comfortably defeating Lithuania 2-0, extending the visitors’ winless streak in European qualifiers to 11 matches. 

Coming into the contest on the back of a winless World Cup campaign in Qatar, Serbia boss Dragan Stojkovic labelled the visit of Lithuania as the perfect opportunity to regain his side’s reputation.

This was reflected in a positive opening 20 minutes for the hosts, which saw Dusan Tadic open the scoring, sweeping home from a clever cut-back from Filip Kostic.

Buoyed by the early breakthrough, Serbia went in pursuit of a second goal to stamp their authority on proceedings.

However, wasteful finishing from Aleksandar Mitrovic and Dusan Vlahovic continued to frustrate the home support, while Andrija Zivkovic saw an effort crash agonisingly against the post, as Lithuania remained within touching distance going into the interval.

Having suffered five consecutive away defeats, the visitors knew a positive response was needed in the opening exchanges of the second half.

However, Serbia doubled their lead within eight minutes of the restart, as Vlahovic collected a clever pass from Tadic and fired home emphatically via the underside of the bar.

Armed with a two-goal advantage, Serbia continued to dominate possession with time ticking into the final half-hour, although clear-cut chances were at a premium.

Arvydas Novikovas threatened a late consolation for Lithuania, but this was as close as the visitors came to blotting the hosts’ copybook, as Serbia eased to a comfortable victory, extending their winning streak in home games agains their opposition to five matches.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Dusan Tadic (Serbia)

Elsewhere in qualifying...

Austria went top of Group F with a 4-1 win over Azerbaijan with Marcel Sabitzer scoring twice. Greece also opened up their account in Group B with a comfortable 3-0 victory over minnows Gibraltar.

There was a gripping 1-1 draw in Group E as Moldova needed a late leveller through Ion Nicolaescu to frustrate the Faroe Islands, who had taken the lead through Mads Mikkelsen in the 27th minute.