Frank Lampard admits Chelsea’s 1-0 victory over Sparta Prague was a tough introduction to life in the Europa League.
The European champions crashed out of the Champions League in the group stages, and now find themselves fighting for silverware in the continent’s second tier competition.
But, if the Blues thought it was going to be easy, they got a quick reality check in the Czech Republic, with Oscar’s 82nd minute strike proving to be the difference between the two sides at the Generali Arena.
“It was a tough match. I thought we started very well, but Sparta had some good moments of their own in the first half. I don't think we played our best match but we didn't concede a goal and we scored one,” the England midfielder told UEFA.com post-match.
“We knew they were a good team. They've been concentrating on just this game for a few weeks. When you come away in Europe no match is easy and when the other team gets some momentum it's difficult, but we stayed in the game and had the quality to score a goal.
“We still have to concentrate [in the second leg] to make sure we get the right result but we're in a good position now so we have to follow it though.”
Lampard was also on hand to talk-up the much-maligned competition after the win, insisting Chelsea must have the right attitude when it comes to the competition, and that the Europa League represents a great opportunity for more silverware in west London.
“If it's hard [to focus on the Europa League after dropping out of the Champions League] then we'd better change that very quickly because we're in this competition now so we have to get our attitude right,” he added.
“The Europa League is a fantastic competition to try and win, so that's what we have to do.”
The Blues host Sparta Prague in the second leg at Stamford Bridge next Thursday, but will be looking to get past Brentford in an FA Cup fourth round replay first on Sunday.