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FC Viktoria Plzeň may have taken a big step towards a place in the UEFA Champions League play-offs with Wednesday night's win at Rosenborg BK, but their coach Pavel Vrba has warned them against thinking the hard work is already done.
Plzeň, newcomers to the UEFA Champions League after claiming their first Czech title last term, earned a 1-0 victory in the first leg of their third qualifying round tie in Trondheim through a 33rd-minute Václav Pilař goal. Vrba said: "The result gives us a lot of encouragement for the return game, but we mustn't overplay it. The Norwegians are stubborn opponents – they're not going to give up after losing one game."
It was a message underlined by his captain Pavel Horváth, who hopes Plzeň will not come to regret missing chances that would have put them in an even more commanding position – notably when Petr Jiráček headed against a post with five minutes remaining.
"The result is fine, but we could have scored even more goals. I am a little worried that we could pay for those missed opportunities in the return leg. It would be a pity not to advance now, though there are worse things in the world than losing a game – the Norwegians can tell you that," said Horváth, referring to last week's attacks in the Scandinavian country.
Plzeň made an inauspicious start as goalkeeper Roman Pavlík suffered a knee ligament injury after 16 minutes which could sideline him for much of the season. Yet his replacement, Michal Daněk, coped admirably. "It was not easy to go on without warming up, but we played well and our defence did not allow them any big chances," said Daněk, Plzeň's hero in the Czech Super Cup last week, saving two penalties in the shoot-out win over FK Mladá Boleslav. "I'm looking forward to the return game at home, we want to prove that today's result was not a fluke."
Their match winner in Trondheim, Pilař, described his goal – a neat finish after latching on to a Marek Bakoš knockdown – as the most important of his career. "The goal gave us confidence but the victory was down to the whole team; we are one step closer to our aim," added the summer recruit from FC Hradec Králové.
Signed to replace the departed Jan Rezek, the 22-year-old, who won his first Czech Republic cap in June, has not made a bad start, with his decisive strike adding to the goal he got in the previous qualifying round against FC Pyunik. The same could be said of a Plzeň side whose record on their return from a 39-year European exile now reads: played three, won three.
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