As a Liverpool fan watching the Champions League over the last few years has felt like peering through a closed shop window. Instead of being able to shop at Waitrose, I have had to head down to Iceland on a Thursday night to watch Liverpool take on the European not-so-elite. Anyway, let’s digress from Liverpool and European competition.
The current Czech Gambrinus Liga Champions Viktoria Plzeň has entered the Champions League group stages for the first time in their history. And they arrived by smashing everyone in front of them, well, bar a few nervy moments along the way. But overall Plzeň have played with a killer instinct and attacking flair that Arsene Wenger is currently looking for North London.
Pavel Vrba’s men have won all six games in qualifying games but now things get a bit more serious. The fixtures haven’t fallen too kindly for Plzeň, they face an intimidating back to back double header with the unstoppable catalan giants Barcelona. While it will be a once in a lifetime moment for the Plzeň fans, it could also be an absolute humping from Barcelona.
I headed off to Eden to watch Plzeň take on BATE Borisov, the Belarussian Champions, who I know little about to be honest. It was a surprise to see Kezman in the side, but of course time has moved on since the same Kezman was tearing up Dutch football earning him a move to the Kings Road and Romans Millionaires club.
Watching Champions League football at Eden was a surreal experience, the stadium was packed to the rafters and the famous anthem bellowing out before kickoff. My usual experience at Eden is sitting with 3000 other fans and watch Slavia Praha get slapped by [insert any Czech team here].
Scanning my eyes down the team sheet I was pleased to see Rajotral, Pilař, Jiráček and Bakos playing. I was even hoping that the barrel chested Pavel Horvath would pull a rabbit out of the hat. No such luck. It’s unfortunate that the driving force behind the Plzeň side last year looks to have hit the buffers, he spent most of the game as a passenger, chasing the BATE players with limited success.
But while Horvath seems to hit the wall, the young Václav Pilař is blossoming into a wonderful midfield playmaker, his deft touches and mazy runs are a joy to watch and worth the entrance fee alone.
The game itself was fairly even affair with the home side dominating possession at times, without managing to find the final ball. Whereas the visitors always looked dangerous on the counter attack and probably had the clearer chances.
It was on the stroke of half time when the agile Petr Jiráček found space on the left flank and played an inviting ball for Marek Bakos to roll home the games first goal. Which prompted me to leap out of my chair and celebrate, clutching my Bakos first goal slip. Much to the annoyance of my Belarusian friend sat next to me.
Actually, if he was a friend I would have offered him a breath mint to make the 90 minutes more comfortable for those in a 2 mile radius.
After the break, Plzeň had a good spell of possession but failed to make it count which lead to BATE Borisov scoring a deserved equalizer. Bressan was just on side as he passed the ball beyond Marek Cech.
Approaching the last 15 minutes and both sides had half chances to win it, with a bit more composure Plzeň might have snatched a late goal. But overall, the draw was a fair yet disappointing result.
Up next for myself and Viktoria Plzeň is a trip to Milan and the San Siro in two weeks time.