Gerard Grimes reports from Tolka Park
A strike deep in injury time from substitute Thibo Baeten rescued a draw for Belgium in the opening game of the under-17 European Championships at Tolka Park.
The Belgians trailed to an unfortunate own goal from defender Ibe Hautekiet early in the second half and the Czechs seemed to have done enough to close out the win before Baeten struck at the death.
Belgium were the better side in the first half, seeing the majority of the ball and creating more chances than the Czech Republic, with Anderlecht’s Jeremy Doku the standout player.
Doku was involved in the first attack of the game for Belgium as first he played in Chris Kalulika with a brilliant through ball but the latter took an extra touch and overran the ball in the box.
Five minutes later, Doku, was the man at fault as he lost possession to David Pech on the edge of the box.
Pech got his head up and passed to Vaclav Sejk on his right but he fired straight at Maarten Vandevoordt in the Belgian net.
Doku was always threatening down the left, so it came as no surprise when the first yellow card of the game went to Czech Republic’s right back Josef Kozeluh for pulling down the attacker as he looked to break down the wing.
It was from Doku breaking down that left wing though that Belgium’s next chance came from as he took it to the byline, cut the ball back to the six-yard box but Kalulika’s shot was saved by Lukas Hornicek.
Doku showed a different side of his game for the Red Devils next chance three minutes later as he held the ball up well on the left before playing it to his captain Kana.
He saw full back Rob Nizet free out on the left and played the ball to him before Nizet’s cross-turned-shot landed on the roof of the net.
Belgium’s next chance came from a counter attack after Sejk had the ball up well to allow his teammates to get forward but Belgium defended the attack well and countered through De Wolf.
He played a long ball over the top of the Czech defence into the path of Doku who took on his man, cut inside and shot over the bar as he looked to bend it into the top corner.
The closest Czech Republic went to scoring in the half came as Kozeluh drilled the ball back across goal, only for Rob Nizet to somehow awkwardly manage to clear the ball over his own bar.
Czech Republic came out a different side after the break and it could be seen from the off as Hronik immediately had a chance in the box but failed to hit the target.
They were however, rewarded for their bright start to the half on 52 minutes as a corner hit Hautekiet at the near post and he sent the ball past his own keeper to give the Czech side the lead.
That would be one of Hautekiet’s last involvements in the game as he was stretchered off minutes later with what looked a nasty leg injury after a challenge by Lukas Hronik.
Belgium pushed for an equaliser with Tibo Persyn forward from right back lofting a ball towards the back post to De Wolf but he headed narrowly wide.
Belgium’s chances took a further blow in the 85th minute as forward Francois Xavier Engolo was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Czech captain Jan Hellebrand, reducing the Red Devils to ten men.
However, they would find the equaliser, as a long ball was played upfield in the 95th minute, Kalulika nodded it over the keeper allowing substitute Thibo Baeten to fire into an empty net to earn a share of the points.
Czech Republic: Lukas Hornicek; Josef Kozeluh, Stepan Stary, Jan Hellebrand (C), Petr Kurka; Lukas Hronik (Samuel Simek 99), Tomas Hajek; David Pech, Adam Ritter, Jachym Sip (Filip Silhart 78); Vaclav Sejk.
Subs not used: Adam Stejskal (gk), Vojtech Wojatschke, Filip Gedeon, Petr Novacek, Adam Toula, Frantisek Matys, Martin Simek.
Booked: Josef Kozeluh (15), Vaclav Sejk (57), Lukas Hronik (61).
Belgium: Maarten Vandevoordt; Tibo Persyn, Killian Sardella, Ibe Hautekiet (Jeremy Landu 67’), Rob Nizet; Marco Kana (C), Wouter George (Anouar Ait EL Hadj 88’), Mathias De Wolf (Thibo Baeten 88’); Chris Kalulika, Francois Xavier Engolo, Jeremy Doku.
Subs not used: Senne Lammens (GK), Yunus Bahadir, Hugo Siquet, Ameen Al Dakhil, Samuel Asoma, Franck Idumbo-Muzambo.
Booked: Mathias de Wolf (51), Francois Xavier Engolo (55, 85), Thibo Baeten (89), Marco Kana (99).
Sent off: Francois Xavier Engolo (85).
Referee: Mykola Balakin (Ukraine).
Extratime.ie Player of the Match: Jeremy Doku (Belgium).