Czechs beat Malta 4-1 to keep alive qualifying hopes

Czech Republic's David Lafata (L) celebrates scoring a goal against Malta during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match at the National Stadium in Ta' Qali, outside Valletta, October 11, 2013. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

(Reuters) - Two goals in each half helped Czech Republic to a comfortable 4-1 win in their Group B qualifier away to Malta on Friday to keep alive their slim hopes of qualifying for next year's World Cup in Brazil.

The Czechs, who controlled much of the game, opened their account in the third minute when Tomas Hubschman's long-range shot deflected off the back of a Maltese defender and past goalkeeper Justin Haber.

David Lafata scored the second goal half an hour later when his well placed header off a Frantisek Rajtoral cross flew into an empty net.

The Czechs, playing without injured Arsenal midfielder Tomas Rosicky, are third in Group B on 12 points ahead of Tuesday's final qualifier away to second-placed Bulgaria, who have one point more. Group winners Italy have already qualified.

Michael Mifsud, winning his 100th Malta cap, pulled one back for the hosts in the 47th minute but Vaclav Kadlec gave the Czechs some breathing space four minutes later when he narrowly beat the offside trap to slot home.

Tomas Pekhart completed the scoring with a header on 90 minutes.

(Editing by Sonia Oxley)

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