Despite the disappointment of their lengthy UEFA Champions League campaign coming to an end at Chelsea FC, Mikael Antonsson believes FC København will return to the competition's later stages in the very near future.
The Danish champions' European season started in the third qualifying round in July and, 12 games and almost eight months later, the curtain fell at Stamford Bridge – although a battling defensive display ensured FCK bowed out with heads held high thanks to a creditable goalless draw. "We knew it was going to be a very tough task to come here and win at least 2-0 to go to the next stage," defender Antonsson told UEFA.com. "Chelsea are a fantastic team so we can just say congratulations."
The damage was done at the Parken Stadion three weeks ago, a pair of Nicolas Anelka goals giving Chelsea an ultimately decisive advantage. Still, FCK had their chances in west London, not least Dame N'Doye's fine free-kick that came back off the post. "We talked before that if we could get 1-0 then maybe they would get a bit nervous and we could play on that," said Antonsson. "
We must be happy, we've gone as far as any Danish team before. It's nice to play with the big guys and we want to get there again."
Ever-present for his side in Europe this term, the imposing centre-back, 29, is well placed to judge the lessons FCK must absorb from their campaign, explaining: “You have to minimise your mistakes. You're playing against such good players that if you make small, small mistakes they will for sure take the opportunity you give them. We gave Anelka two small [chances] in Parken and he scored twice."
The experience was equally bittersweet for Jesper Grønkjær, back at the club he left in 2004, and regretting what he considered an opportunity missed. "We didn't play our best. We were a bit better today [than in the first leg] but the winter break killed us," the forward said.
"Had the game been in December we'd have had a better chance but we were playing against a good team, one of the favourites for the Champions League. [Being back] was even more special than I thought but as soon as the game started I wanted to win. To get a draw here is fantastic but it doesn't really matter when you lose 2-0 in Copenhagen.
Chelsea are a really strong team and I hope they can win the Champions League."
Antonsson, meanwhile, is content that FCK have proved their pedigree throughout their continental excursions – and, with his team 19 points clear at the top of the Superligaen, he is confident there is more to come.
"It's going to be a big task to qualify again next year," he said. "Many people thought we'd finish last in our group but we beat Panathinaikos twice and also Rubin Kazan and [drew] 1-1 at home to Barcelona, so we've proved we're a good team. You know you have to be at your top and play your best game – ever – to beat a team like Chelsea. We didn't manage to do that but we will be back."
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