AC Sparta Praha opened their UEFA Champions League goalscoring account in style as they edged past FC Shakhtar Donetsk 3-2 in their First Group-Match Stage encounter at the Letná Stadium in Prague. The Czech side, who had not previous scored a goal in the tournament, deservedly came out on top after a pulsating second half which contained all five goals. Tomáš Rosický opened the scoring before Hennadii Zubov's opportunist strike wiped out the lead two minutes later. Michal Hornák bagged Sparta's second and Jiri Jarošik their third before Hornák turned the ball into his own net to give the visitors a glimmer of hope with just six minutes left.
The Ukrainians, who lost by the same scoreline to Arsenal FC last week, again did themselves proud on their travels in Europe, but are now facing early elimination from the competition.
A scrappy first half gave no indication of the drama that would follow after half-time, though Sparta looked marginally the stronger and were prepared to commit more players in attack. Midfielder Tomáš Rosický looked particularly sharp going forward and caused problems with his pace, but like Shakhtar, Sparta struggled with the final touch. The watchful Yurig Virt in the visitors' goal was relatively untroubled though his opposite number Tomáš Poštulka did well to save with his feet from Andreii Vorobiei early on.
The best chance of the half fell to Sparta's Libor Sionko. Clean through, he shot straight at Virt's feet as the keeper sprawled in front of him. The ball looped back into the air, but the onrushing midfielder could only head it wide with the goal at his mercy. Jiri Jarošik tried his luck with an overhead bicycle kick, but Virt was up to the challenge.
After the break, Sparta showed redoubled determination and they surged forward on 54 minutes. Rosický played a neat one-two with Sionko on the edge of the area and then moved into space to blast the ball into the net. It was Sparta's first goal of the Champions League season, but their lead was wiped out just two minutes later. Zubov found himself in space on the edge of the area and bent a magnificient shot beyond Poštulka's reach into the top-left corner.
Sparta regain lead
After a further 17 minutes of midfield action, the home side went 2-1 up. Labant's delivery from a corner on the left was floated high into the area and Hornák beat Aliuta in the air to nod past Virt at the far post. Sparta rung the changes to consolidate their lead and added a third on 82 minutes. This time Jarošik found the net, standing his ground well in the face of Virt's flapping and heading home from a corner.
But as the Letná Stadium came out in full voice, Shakhtar gave them a shock by dragging it back to 3-2. Just ten minutes after scoring for Sparta, Hornák turned the ball into his own net under pressure from substitute Vitali Abramov after Zubov's cross. The home side endured a nail-biting last few minutes, but soon they were celebrating after securing their first points of the competition - and moving to within three points of SS Lazio in Group B.