LEICESTER CITY ground out a goalless stalemate with their Czech mates – and will now fancy their chances of finishing the job in the return leg at the King Power on Thursday.
But this was no Bohemian Rhapsody for Brendan Rodgers’ Foxes who had to roll up their sleeves to do a workmanlike job against stubborn opponents.
Slavia stepped it up a gear after the break to try and grab a crucial advantage but they were toothless in attack and rarely troubled Kasper Schmeichel – who didn’t do too badly for a fat lad!
The hosts had the cockiness of a team currently 10 points clear at the top of the Czech league and cruising towards their fourth title in five seasons.
Having insulted Schmeichel, on their official TV channel, by suggesting he was a roly-poly-goalie who wore a CORSET under his kit, the Czech champs wound up their guests again before a ball was kicked.
Rodgers’ squad emerged for their pre-match warm-up to be confronted by rows of colour-coordinated seats, the length of the pitch, which spelled out: SPARTA PRAHA – FOX HUNTING!
Gloves were well and truly off, this was no cagey, cat-and-mouse affair with both side’s content to size each other up.
This pair went at it hammer-and-tongs from the start – watched by 600 lucky Slavia Prague fans – who witnessed a match more reminiscent of a good old blood-and-snot FA Cup third-round tie, than a sophisticated last-32 Europa League contest.
Harvey Barnes, singled out by Slavia coach Jindrich Trpisovsky as a player to fear, proved the point by surging forward to set up Marc Albrighton who fired wide in the opening minute.
At the other end Leicester survived an early scare of their own when unmarked centre half Ondrej Kudela sliced a volley wide following a corner to spark an inquest led by Schmeichel.
And so it continued, with play raging from end to end, with Prague right back Alexander Bah attacking like Trent Alexander-Arnold and Barnes revelling in the spaces he left behind.
James Maddison drilled a shot over, then whipped in a free kick which Abdallah Sima desperately headed for a corner under intense pressure, before goalie Ondrej Kolar blocked Barnes.
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The busy Leicester winger then had a penalty claim turned down when he went down under pressure from Thomas Holes and Slavia survived another close call when Maddison’s cross struck David Zima’s arm, with VAR confirming contact was made a fraction outside the box.
Romanian dangerman Nico Stanciu fired a free kick which Schmeichel plucked out with ease.
But the Dane looked a lot less convincing as he pawed at a Bah cross before he redeemed himself with a stunning fingertip save to touch over Stanciu’s wicked dipping shot.
Not bad for a guy in a girdle!
Slavia were gaining control and Rodgers replaced Jamie Vardy and Albrighton with Kelechi Iheanacho and Cengiz Under.
But before play resumed, Iheancho was booked for smashing into Jakub Hromada, which will now cost him his place in the return as he earned a one-game suspension.
Ironically the striker could have had the last word here when he was free at the back post, however for once Barnes fluffed his lines and his cross was too high for Iheanacho.
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