"We were chasing them on scooters, while they were driving Ferraris," sighed FC Viktoria Plzeň defender David Limberský after his side's 3-0 home defeat by Manchester City FC on matchday one.
Though the Plzeň players were realistic ahead of kick-off, they now know the stark reality of life in the UEFA Champions League. Next up for the Czech champions is Wednesday's Group D trip to PFC CSKA Moskva and, though it promises to be a testing assignment, they should have learned plenty of lessons from their loss to Manuel Pellegrini's team.
1) Mistakes are always punished. "We cannot afford a poor pass in midfield that allows the opposition a chance to go three on two, or three on one, on the counterattack," said Plzeň coach Pavel Vrba. It looked to me like an ill-considered chess move – hand a chance to the likes of Yaya Touré and Sergio Agüero and it is always bound to be checkmate.
2) Play to the best of your ability. All 11 players, as well as those on the bench, must be on the top of their game – you simply cannot afford to have a weak point. It was just not central defender Lukáš Hejda's day against City and Plzeň were made to pay.
3) Take your chances. After conceding the first goal, Plzeň could have equalised almost immediately from the kick-off. However, Jan Kovařík's shot was blocked and no such opportunity came again.
4) Try something new. It was clear that City had been well drilled to deal with Plzeň's attacking set pieces, meaning what had worked so well in qualifying was no longer reaping such reward.
5) Do not lose belief. Plzeň can draw on the positives of the first half against City, when they were pretty much equal to their opponents. It was in the second period, when Pellegrini's men moved up the gears, that the hosts could not react.
If taking heed of all these lessons may not earn Plzeň maximum points against CSKA, it will at least ensure one thing. Striker Marek Bakoš told me after the City match that "we want our fans to appreciate our performances after every game, regardless of the result". Vrba's troops can rest easy that their loyal supporters will be fulfilled if they show that they have improved on their matchday one display.
The opinions expressed here are the writer's own and not those of UEFA.
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