David Lafata was mindful that his five-goal haul against FC Levadia Tallinn could be a once-in-a-lifetime achievement as he reflected on AC Sparta Praha's 7-0 UEFA Champions League second qualifying round win.
"It is a special feeling," said the 32-year-old striker. "I might never score five in a game in the rest of my career, but the most important thing is our convincing win with so many goals. Even though there is a second leg to be played, I think we are going to hold on to win this tie."
He might easily have become the fifth player to hit six goals in a UEFA club competition game, something no-one has managed since Eldar Hadžimehmedović scored a hat-trick in each half of SFK Lyn's 6-0 win against Faroese side NSÍ Runavík in the 2003/04 UEFA Cup qualifying round.
Levadia defender Toni Tipuric deflected Lafata's shot into the net on 57 minutes and was credited with an own goal that might easily have been another strike for the man of the hour. "I know that I was involved also in the sixth goal, but it was an own goal – I knew that straight away," Lafata insisted.
"I scored from all my chances," added the 30-cap Czech international, who played abroad with Xanthi FC and FK Austria Wien. "You have days like that, but also ones when you cannot score no matter what you do. I have to thank to my team-mates for some excellent assists. For some of them, all I had to do was put the ball into an empty net."
It may have been comfortable on the night, but Levadia were not expected to buckle so dramatically. The Estonian champions went into the game having not conceded in 15 matches in all competitions since a 1-1 draw at home against FC Flora Tallinn on 5 April this year, including home and away wins against SP La Fiorita in the UEFA Champions League first qualifying round.
"Our plan was to put Levadia under pressure from the start," said Lafata, who scored in the 22nd and 44th minutes, before completing his hat-trick with a penalty just before the break. "Initially, we created chances but did not convert them, but after the first two goals went in the game was over. The other goals were just a bonus."
However, the fact that Sparta went on to score so many may owe something to their disappointing exit from last season's UEFA Europa League second qualifying round, a 1-0 loss at BK Häcken eliminating them following a 2-2 draw in Prague. "This was our first regular match of the season, and we remember from last season how difficult it is to get started, since we were eliminated by Häcken," Lafata said. "Our aim is to qualify for the group stage. This was just the first early step."
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