Zlin fails to emulate Leicester, still wins the Czech Cup

By KAREL JANICEK

Associated Press

PRAGUE (AP) A provincial club from eastern Czech Republic that drew comparisons with last year's Premier League champion Leicester is finishing the season with a trophy after winning the domestic cup.

FC Fastav Zlin, which has a stadium that seats just over 6,000 spectators, was dubbed "Zlincester" after six wins and three draws in its first nine games of the season.

Though it eventually ran out of steam and is now sixth in the table with two games to go, the result is impressive for a club that has never won the title and finished only three points above the relegation zone last season.

On Wednesday, Zlin saved its season in style by beating second-tier side FC Opava 1-0 in the Czech Cup final in the eastern city of Olomouc. Zlin had to eliminate local heavyweights Sparta Prague in the round of 16 and Slavia Prague in the semifinals.

"It's wonderful," Zlin coach Bohumil Panik said. "We all believed in the victory, though it was hard-fought."

Panik's players are now hoping to make their presence felt with the club's first appearance in the early stages of the Europa League next season.

The club, which under different names has roots dating back to 1919, has a budget estimated at less than $2 million a year and has only played once before in a major European competition. It was eliminated in the first round of the European Cup Winners' Cup by PSV Eindhoven in 1970.

Updated May 17, 2017