England fell to their first qualifying defeat in a decade as debutant Zdenek Ondrasek secured the Czech Republic a deserved victory against Gareth Southgate’s stuttering side.
The Three Lions arrived in Prague knowing victory would assure progress to Euro 2020 with three matches to spare – and few expected anything other than an away win given the 5-0 shellacking handed out to the Czechs at Wembley in March’s Group A opener at Wembley.
Expectation grew with Harry Kane’s early spot-kick, only for Jakub Brabec to quickly bring the Czech Republic level and provide the platform for substitute Ondrasek to punish a ponderous England performance and seal a shock 2-1 win.
It ended a 43-match unbeaten run in Euro and World Cup qualifying matches stretching back to a 1-0 loss in Ukraine in October 2009 – and was a result Southgate’s men could hardly argue with.
After Kane opened the scoring in the fifth minute, England looked lacklustre in attack and susceptible at the back as the alarming defending in last month’s 5-3 win against Kosovo was repeated.
Brabec was all too easily able to level from a ninth-minute corner as the Czechs played with confidence throughout the first half and kicked on after the break at a bouncing Sinobo Stadium.
Jordan Pickford was having a far busier night in Prague than he will have expected and was beaten five minutes from time by debutant Ondrasek – a gut punch that will not derail Euro 2020 qualification but raises big questions.
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