Substitutes Skoda and Necid rescue point for Czech Republic vs. Croatia
They say hindsight is 20-20, but in this case, player ratings for Czech Republic most likely got distorted thanks to their remarkable comeback. Croatia utterly dominated the first half of the match, and the Czechs barely got in a couple of shots before Ivan Rakitic made it 2-0 in the 59th minute. Pavel Vrba made a double substitution fewer than 10 minutes later, one that paid off handsomely when Milan Skoda pulled one back for his side.
Croatia weren't helped by an injury to Luka Modric, who once again put on a masterful performance. But it was the trouble caused by a small section of the Croatia support that most likely aided Czech Republic the most. After flares landed on the pitch and fights broke out in the stands, Croatia lost focus. A handball by Domagoj Vida, a penalty awarded by Mark Clattenburg, and a tremendous spot kick from substitute Tomas Necid, and suddenly the Czechs emerged with a point.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Petr Cech, 6 -- Many thought he could've done more to save the first Croatia goal, but the error lie with his defenders more than anything. No fumbles, but no real impressive moves, either.
DF Pavel Kaderabek, 6 -- Seemed rather intimidated and unsure of himself in the first half, but most of his older teammates could say the same. Don't turn your back, he could still put in a masterful shift.
DF Roman Hubnik, 4.5 -- Things could've been so much worse for Hubnik, whose error allowed Marcelo Brozovic to pounce on the ball he lost, sending it through to Ivan Rakitic for Croatia's second goal. Fortunately, the comeback should take a bit of the pressure off the experienced defender, who did quite well in Czech Republic's first match.
DF Tomas Sivok, 6 -- Nothing exceptional from Sivok this time around. He tried his best to hold the Czech defense together as wave after wave of Croatia pressure crashed around him, but even the veteran couldn't perform miracles; rather, just a couple of helpful blocks.
DF David Limbersky, 5 -- Why Limbersky, whose name seems rather oxymoronic considering his lack of reflexes, continues to slide into the starting XI automatically is a mystery. Theodor Gebre Selassie should be given a shot in the final group game.
MF Jaroslav Plasil, 5.5 -- Managed to turn up the pace occasionally, but seems too aged and slow to go up against any side with any speed at all.
MF Vladimir Darida, 6 -- An average performance with a few nice crosses peppered in. Nothing to sneer at, but you can't help thinking Darida could be contributing more.
MF Ladislav Krejci, 6.5 -- Had the first shot on target for the Czechs and looked to be leading a bit of a revival at the start of the second half, before Rakitic notched Croatia's second. Offered up nothing dramatic, but was also one of the few who didn't seem completely in over his head.
MF Jiri Skalak, 5.5 -- Thrown into the mess because Borek Dockal is still not fit. Did about as well as could be expected, but Czech fans must be crossing their fingers that Vrba has another solution in mind for the match against Turkey.
MF Tomas Rosicky, 7 -- Made up for a limp, to be generous, first-half performance with his sumptuous side-footed cross that set up Skoda for the Czechs' vital first goal. When Rosicky isn't clicking, Czech Republic can't do much at all, but it's those magical moments that continue to keep the captain as an integral part of the side. Unfortunately, he looked utterly beat at the end of this one, so Vrba may need to spend the next few days carefully considering how his side will operate in the final group match.
FW David Lafata, 5 -- Necid bore a disproportionate amount of the criticism for the Czechs' failure to score against Spain, so Vrba brought Lafata back. Trouble is, while the 34-year-old can score plenty in the domestic league, he hasn't shown he can do so against stronger opposition in quite some time.
FW Milan Skoda, 8 -- Replaced Lafata at the 67th minute, approximately 67 minutes too late. Scored the Czechs' first goal of the tournament with a fantastic header, and did it before the crowd trouble distracted the Croatia side. Impact sub, indeed.
MF Josef Sural, 6 -- Came on for Skalak in the 67th minute, part of a double substitution Vrba clearly hoped would change the match. It did, but not due to Sural.
FW Tomas Necid, 7 -- On for Plasil in the 86th minute in another attempt to snatch a result. Could Vrba have imagined Necid's penalty would earn his team a crucial point? Probably not, but let's hope the spot kick was enough to see Necid start against Turkey.
Kirsten Schlewitz is ESPN FC's Czech Republic blogger at Euro 2016. Twitter: @kdschlewitz