Switzerland retained their place in League A of the Nations League by beating Czech Republic 2-1, who were relegated.
Jaroslav Silhavy’s Czech side created plenty of chances in the first half, hitting the woodwork twice but they found themselves 2-0 down when the Swiss scored two quickfire goals.
Remo Freuler headed in from close range when his run into the box wasn’t tracked, then Breel Embolo doubled the hosts’ advantage straight from the kick-off after the Czech midfield gave the ball away cheaply.
Patrik Schick pulled one back on the stroke of half-time, blasting one into the top corner from a low cross.
The visitors continued to try to find a way back into the game and were given a penalty when Schick was fouled. Tomas Soucek stepped up, but his spot kick was saved excellently by Yann Sommer.
In the closing stages, Ruben Vargas saw a goal ruled out for offside followed by the Czechs hitting the post again this time via a Jan Kutcha header.
TALKING POINT – THE PENALTY
Czech Republic played reasonably well throughout but to go 2-0 down and needing three goals in a must win game for them – the writing seemed on the wall. Schick’s strike gave them hope and all of sudden there was belief in the second half.
They continued to knock on the door and the penalty given on the hour mark was their chance to equalise and set up a frantic finish. However, it was a weak strike from the Czech captain Soucek and the Swiss have a top keeper in Sommer, who got down well to save it.
From that point on it felt like desperation and when they hit the post for the third time in the closing stages you knew it wasn’t meant to be.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH – YANN SOMMER
It’s easy to hand player of the match to the goalkeeper when a penalty is saved but his performance was so much more than one big save.
He made a number of good stops in the match and he commanded his box and defence perfectly. With the height of Soucek, Schick and Kutcha the Czechs wanted to cross the ball a lot and he claimed so many crosses, easing the pressure on his defence.
Switzerland: Sommer 8, Widmer 6, Schar 7, Elvedi 5, Rodriguez 6, Freuler 8, Xhaka 7, Shaqiri 7, Sow 6, Vargas 7, Embolo 8.
Subs: Seferovic 5, Steffen 6, Zakaria 5, Amdouni 6, Jashari 6.
Czech Republic: Vaclik 5, Coufal 7, Kudela 5, Zima 7, Jemelka 6, Soucek 5, Kalvach 5, Cerny 7, Barak 6, Vlknova 6, Schick 7
Subs: Stanek 6, Havel 6, Kutcha 7, Provod 6, Sevcik 6.
29′ GOAL – FREULER: We have spoken about the dangerous crosses into the box and it’s a bit of quality from Shaqiri which is the difference. Schar comes out from the back, picks out the ex-Liverpool man and he finds Freuler breaking from midfield and he heads home from close range. A crucial goal.
30′ GOAL – EMBOLO: Blink and you’ll miss it – Switzerland are now two ahead with two goals in a minute. It’s a defensive error from Kalvach giving the ball away straight from kick-off in midfield. Embolo intercepts, runs at the defence and slides it into the corner of the net.
45′ GOAL – SCHICK: Game back on? They have created a number of opportunities this first half and finally one is taken and of course it’s Schick. Kalvach makes a good pass and then Zima picks out the striker who converts the pull back cross with his left foot with a powerful strike.
61′ PENALTY SAVED – SOMMER: A long ball goes forward – Schick out paces and out muscles Elvedi, who is the wrong side, and he trips the striker up. Penalty to Czech Republic… It’s another chance wasted – Soucek – the captain – steps up and the pen isn’t hit with much power and is saved by Sommer diving to his right.