Plzeň draw against BATE in maiden Champions League group stage match

Viktoria Plzeň - BATE Borisov, photo: CTK

Czech football champions Viktoria Plzeň played in their first-ever Champions League group stage match on Tuesday, facing off against Belarus’s BATE Borisov. Buoyed by a goal from Marek Bakoš late in the first half, the club showed plenty of spark, but the more experienced Belorussian team came back, leading to a 1:1 draw.

Viktoria Plzeň - BATE Borisov, photo: CTK
Czech club Viktoria Plzeň’s maiden group stage match in the Champions League went fairly well and notably could have finished even better if, for example, Jakub Hora had converted in his side’s last chance in the final minute. Even so, Plzeň can largely be happy with Tuesday’s result: the first appearance by a Czech club at the group stage since Slavia five years ago and Sparta before that. The match, held at Prague’s Eden Stadium, featured a number of quality moments such as Bystroň heading an incoming corner but only over the bar. Although slower at first, overall BATE appeared closer to scoring as the match continued: in one moment a shot by Gordeychuk was narrowly deflected.

So it was a shock for the team, then, that the Czech side struck first on the final shot of the first half. Pilař sent the ball to Jiráček who crossed to Bakoš who scored, continuing to show great form after scoring six goals in the qualifying stage.

Pavel Vrba, photo: CTK
In the second half, Plzeň had opportunities to build on their lead but gradually BATE patiently tightened the screws, spending more and more time in the Czech side’s half. Eventually Bressan tied it and although there were additional opportunities for both teams, 1:1 it remained. After the match, here’s what Viktoria Plzeň’s coach, Pavel Vrba, had to say:

“Of course I am disappointed because we led 1:0 and there were opportunities that we missed that could have won us the game. We had a set piece where Limberský missed in the penalty area and there was another close chance. To me it seems that BATE scored on their one good opportunity. The match, of course, wasn’t the most precise; but I think our team - and theirs - approached this as an opening group stage match in which it’s important not to lose. Both teams played more responsibly at the back. It was about getting the points. Of course I’m happy we got one, but I would have preferred three.”

A number of players, including Milan Petržela, also rued missed opportunities in the second half but overall were satisfied with their performance.

Viktoria Plzeň - BATE Borisov, photo: CTK
“We wanted to be just as active in the second half but then our opponent turned on the pressure and was able to score something of an easy goal. That gave them a boost and they began to play more of a passing game, pushing us into more difficult situations and getting chances. On the whole, though, I think we have nothing to be ashamed of.”

Petržela described as “wonderful” the first-time experience of playing in the group stage of football’s most prestigious club competition, something that he said players had only previously known from TV. The team will play AC Milan, who on Tuesday tied 2:2 with defending champions Barcelona, next.