Turkey beat Czech Republic to enter quarterfinals (Lead)

June 16th, 2008 - 5:08 am ICT by IANS  

Geneva, June 16 (DPA) Two goals in the last three minutes from Nihat Kahveci helped Turkey come from two goals down to beat the Czech Republic 3-2 in a remarkable final Group A encounter in Geneva Sunday and set up a quarterfinal clash against Croatia. Turkey looked to be dead and buried after goals from Jan Koller and Jaroslav Plasil made it 2-0 to the Czechs but once Arda Turan made it 2-1 with a shot from just inside the area with 15 minutes remaining there was only one side in it.

But despite all their late pressure Fatih Terim’s side looked to be heading home when incredibly, with just three minutes remaining, Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech inexplicably dropped an innocuous Hamit Altintop cross, which Nihat poked home.

Under a new UEFA regulation, a draw would have meant a penalty shoot-out as both teams would have finished the group phase level on points, goal difference and goals scored.

But Nihat ensured an equally sensational finish as the Turkey captain fired home a superb winner in the 89th minute from the edge of the area.

While Turkey completely dominated the closing phase of the match, they started slowly and struggled for long periods in the first half against the aerial power of the 2.02-metre-tall Koller, who was recalled by coach Karel Bruckner ahead of the out of sorts Milan Baros.

Koller headed narrowly over after 11 minutes and nearly got on the end of a Libor Sionko cross 10 minutes later but Servet Cetin managed to hook the ball clear.

However, the 35-year-old was not to be denied for much longer as on 34 minutes he powerfully headed home a Zdenek Grygera cross for his 55th international goal to put the Czechs one up at the break.

Turkey put their abject first-half performance behind them and started much the stronger team after the restart although a Tuncay Sanli header, which was easily saved by Cech, was the closest they came to equalizing.

Koller then squandered a one-on-one chance with Volkan before Plasil doubled the Czechs’ lead on 62 minutes.

Defender Jan Polak hit a post nine minutes later for the Czechs before Arda netted his third goal of Euro to start the improbable comeback.

The win means Turkey finish level on six points with Portugal, who were already guaranteed top spot in Group A before tonight’s 2-0 loss to already eliminated Switzerland thanks to their better head-to-head record against both the Czechs and the Turks.

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