David Lafata On Fire in Champions League Qualifying
I can’t say I had heard of David Lafata before a few weeks ago. My knowledge of Czech football is admittedly limited, and aside from a few short forays into Greece and Austria, Lafata has only played in and for his native Czech Republic. Inside that country, he’s a notable star, the top scorer in the history of the Czech First League and scorer of seven goals for his national team. But this may be the year that the rest of Europe pays him a little more attention, because of what he is doing in the UEFA Champions League qualifying rounds.
Sparta Prague, Lafata’s club side, won its 33rd league title last season, putting them into the 2nd qualifying round of this year’s Champions League. They were drawn against Levadia Tallinn, champions of last year’s Estonian Meistriliiga. Sparta would have always been heavy favorites to advance, but no one saw it coming when Lafata scored a first-half hat trick in the opening leg of the tie. Even fewer would have expected him to score two more in the second half, for five total.
This Youtube video of that match claims six for Lafata, which would have made him only the fifth player to score that many in a single European match, but the sixth was ruled an own goal:
On the strength of that 7-0 win, Sparta easily moved on to the third qualifying round, which began today against Malmö FF of Sweden, certainly a step up in opposition from the Estonians. But Lafata once again brought his scoring boots, managing another hat trick in a 4-2 first-leg win. That’s eight goals in two Champions League rounds for Lafata. His first today was not one that any goalkeeper would feel too good about, but the goals just seem to be a little bigger right now: