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Baros strike sparks Czech comeback

Baros, left, finally found his touch to put the Czechs on the way to victory

AVEIRO, Portugal (Reuters) -- Milan Baros and substitute Marek Heinz spared the Czech blushes with second half goals to give them a 2-1 win over Latvia in Euro 2004 Group D on Tuesday.

Latvia, the 500-1 outsiders playing in their first major tournament, led against the run of play when Maris Verpakovskis pounced on the stroke of half-time.

Baros rifled the equalizer in the 73rd minute from a Karel Poborsky cross and Heinz steered home the winner in the 85th minute after a poor clearance.

Baros hooked the ball over goalkeeper Aleksandrs Kolinko and defender Mihails Zemlinskis sent the ball straight to Heinz.

"We didn't think we were going to lose but still Baros's goal was a big moment," said Poborsky.

"We got the three points we needed, and we can say we got the start we wanted even if there were some tense moments."

Baros added: "I got the ball around 11 yards out and really just tried to make sure I got the shot on target. It's probably the biggest goal I have scored so far in my career."

Baros, 22, became the youngest Czech to score in a European Championship finals match beating Patrik Berger's record.

Made amends

The goal, his 17th in 26 matches, made amends for an earlier mistake when Baros hung on to the ball too long after a fine crossfield break and lost it on the edge of the box.

Latvia launched an immediate counter charge and striker Andrejs Prohorenkovs' low cross eluded covering defenders and keeper Petr Cech to reach Verpakovskis, who turned it in from less than a metre.

The hugely talented Czech captain Pavel Nedved of Juventus had set up a series of chances in the first 20 minutes of the match played in 33 Celsius heat at the Municipal Stadium.

With 10 minutes on the clock, Nedved's blistering shot from right was blocked by center back Igors Stepanovs.

Two minutes later Nedved crossed from the right but Kolinko just got a hand to the ball to deflect it from the head of the towering Jan Koller.

With less than half an hour to go Baros chested a cross down in the box and turned but shot over the bar.

He then missed a sitter from two metres when Poborsky's right wing cross proved too high for Koller but fell to him at the far post.

Kolinko dived to his left to save a stinging low shot from Nedved with 20 minutes to go but it was left to the Czechs strikers to secure the victory.

"The second half was perfect," said Czech coach Karel Bruckner. "Better combination, better shooting, more vigor. We knew the match would be tough, but it was even tougher than expected."

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