Sparta Prague 2, Airdrie 1

(Aggregate 3-1)

AIRDRIE'S great adventure was brought to a halt last night as the

classy men from Prague, so fortunate to escape in the first leg, showed

some of the form which hoisted them among the elite in Europe last


Alex MacDonald's men have constantly surprised the big guns at home,

but in the Letne Stadium, honest toil and sweat were not enough to give

them any further interest in the Cup-winners' Cup. But MacDonald's men

fought every inch of the way, and at the end the Czechs knew they had

been in a game.

Trailing by a goal from the first leg, Airdrie made a great bid for

almost half an hour. But in a disastrous seven-minute spell, the roof

fell in.

They were harshly punished when the Bulgarian referee awarded a soft

free kick 25 yards out and Petr Vrabec thumped it past John Martin. A

minute later, Jimmy Boyle watched in horror as Petr Kouba brilliantly

saved his penalty kick after Owen Coyle had been fouled, and then Sparta

scored a magnificent second through talented striker, Roman Vonasek, who

shot home from 20 yards.

Even at that, Airdrie failed to buckle and they rocked the Czechs

early in the second half when Kenny Black scored with a superb drive

from 20 yards.

It wasn't enough, but Airdrie have nothing to feel ashamed about. For

a little provincial club to play as they did over two legs against one

of the top sides in Europe deserves credit.

With only a minute on the clock, Gus Caesar had his name taken for a

foul on Vonasek and we thought that the referee was going to be strict.

It seemed only to apply to Airdrie, however, for he booked three more of

the Scots while letting the Czechs away with some tasty stuff.

After 29 minutes, Stewart was booked when he protested at the award of

a free kick some 25 yards out, from which Vrabec opened the scoring.

Airdrie sent on Kirkwood for Caesar in 55 minutes and within seconds

they gave themselves a lifeline when Boyle touched a free kick to Black

on the edge of the box and the midfield man shot low and hard in off the

keeper's right-hand post.

Substitute Alan Lawrence and Black were booked, but Airdrie should

have had another penalty when Smith was barged in the back -- it looked

more of a penalty than the one they got.

After the match, MacDonald slammed the Bulgarian referee for what was

truly an inept performance. MacDonald said: ''There were a whole series

of decisions that went against us starting with the free kick which led

to their first goal.

''We should have had another penalty. If we had got it and scored, who

knows what might have happened.

SPARTA PRAGUE -- Kouba, Sopko, Mistr, Vrabec, Hornak, Bilek, Nemec,

Chovanec, Vonasek, Siegl, Frydek. Substitutes -- Nedved, Dvirnik, Matta,


AIRDRIE -- Martin, Kidd, Stewart, Sandison, Caesar, Black, Boyle,

Balfour, Smith, Coyle, Honor. Substitutes -- Lawrence, Watson, Kirkwood,

Jack, Reid.

Referee -- V Iliev (Bulgaria).