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Faces don't fit as journo lifts lid on Sparta's identity scam

International friendly weeks are always synonymous with a sudden outbreak of five-day hamstrings that keep players out of action just long enough to avoid national service, but short enough to be fit and rested for a return to club action.

However, Sparta Prague have been caught attempting to pull the wool over the Czech FA's eyes after taking three players out of the mid-week friendlies.

Ahead of their Europa League meeting with Liverpool next week, strikers Vaclav Kadlec and Tomas Pekhart, as well as Croatia defender Manuel Pamic, all appeared to be sidelined for "fitness reasons", but after changing their name on the team-sheet and their jerseys, all three played against Zenit St Petersburg on Tuesday night in a warm-up game in Spain.

Sparta originally credited the relatively unknown Pavel Kaderabek with both goals in a 2-1 win but were later forced to admit that promising striker Kadlec, playing in Kaderabek's jersey, had grabbed the goals after their cunning plan was foiled by a sharp Czech journalist.

It didn't quite require Jessica Fletcher to uncover this espionage as Pekhart, a 6ft 4ins white Czech Republic international, wore the shirt of Cameroonian Martin Abena.

Irish Independent