There was a collective refusal to make excuses among the FC København players at Parken Stadion on Tuesday, with captain William Kvist summing up the sense of realism after their 2-0 first-leg loss to Chelsea FC: "We met a better team today."
Optimism had been rampant in the Danish capital ahead of the round of 16 opener, not least due to the stuttering form of visitors who had clinched just one win in their previous five outings in all competitions.
Chelsea wasted little time before making their quality count, however, and it was Nicolas Anelka who eased the pressure on the west London club with a goal either side of half-time. Ultimately, FCK barely mustered a chance and now require a minor miracle to avoid elimination at Stamford Bridge on 16 March.
"You could see on the team sheet that they have better players than us one on one, but today we didn't perform as well as we would have liked," said Kvist. "
It's going to be very difficult now, no doubt about that. I think we just have to go to London and play. It's going to be a good game for us and we'll do all we can, but we only have a very small chance."
With the Danish Super League still in hibernation until early March, the hosts were returning to competitive action for the first time since their final group stage fixture on 7 December. Kvist was nonetheless careful not to put the result down to a lack of match fitness.
"That was surely part of it, but I don't know how much – and we have to say we met a better team today, especially when they're in front," he explained. "We weren't good enough in our offensive play and they gained a lot of breaks [against] us."
Goalkeeper Johan Wiland was likewise forthcoming in his praise for Chelsea, having been well placed to see them at work and responsible for keeping the deficit down with a number of saves. "They were better than us and we made a lot of mistakes, especially in the first half, and you can't afford to do that in this type of game," he commented. "
Now we have to go there and believe in [our chances], but it's going to be hard. Hopefully we can make it 1-0 and keep going after that."
For left-back Oscar Wendt, the return encounter will be more about bidding farewell to the competition on a high, Ståle Solbakken's men having become the first Danish side to get to the last 16 in the UEFA Champions League era. "We're realistic and this is a big mountain to climb," said the 25-year-old. "
I hope we make the most of it. We've had a fantastic run and I hope we finish it in a good way in London."
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