Manchester City finally produced the flying start to a Champions League campaign they have been seeking. After drawing against Napoli and losing to Real Madrid in their two previous opening group games, Manuel Pellegrini's team departed the home of the Czech Republic champions with a convincing victory and all three points.
A second-half goal burst from Edin Dzeko, Yaya Touré and Sergio Agüero did the business, though there is still work to be done for the new manager as he seeks to plot a path through the opening phase of the competition proper, a feat never managed by his predecessor, Roberto Mancini.
"Yes, I think it's very important to start the Champions League winning away, it was not an easy match. Plzen are a very good team and to win 3-0 away, I'm very happy," Pellegrini said. "In the first half we had clear chances to score also but didn't do it. In the second half we had more speed to our play and that was very important against a team that had 10 players behind the ball. In the second half we finished what we started at the end of the first half but with two or three differences."
This is the perfect way to lead into Sunday's visit to the Etihad Stadium of Manchester United for the opening derby of the season. With Vincent Kompany coming through the match unscathed, the next wish for Pellegrini is that Gaël Clichy and David Silva can also return from their respective thigh and knee problems to give the manager the best chance of recording a win over the champions and register a significant early psychological blow over their cross-town rivals.
The manager said: "We'll see – from the report I had today David Silva could maybe arrive in the derby, Clichy more difficult. Vincent Kompany played 90 minutes without any problem – I had some doubts in the last 15 minutes to change him but he said he [was] OK. Micah [Richards] will work normally from tomorrow [following a hamstring injury] so there's no problem. And Agüero had took a little knock but he is fine."
City had been sluggish for passages against Plzen, again lacking the spark missing for most of last season. The sight of Jesús Navas being withdrawn after the break following an ineffective display summed this up, though Pellegrini will hardly grumble at the outcome of a contest in which the result was all important.
While the Chilean maintains the Premier League has equal status for the club, Pellegrini's pedigree in this competition was a principal factor in his appointment as manager, the desire being he can right a wrong that a £1bn-plus investment has so far failed to address.
He now hopes his side can grow into a season that had so far stuttered, as they did into this game. "It will give confidence to all the players. We also have the derby next Sunday so winning away in the Champions League and scoring three goals, having three or four more chances to score and keeping a clean sheet, always gives you a lot of confidence," said Pellegrini.
As the half-hour passed, the tale had been of a laboured City going the closer to opening the scoring with only the odd scare on Joe Hart's goal. Kompany provided one of these with a back-pass from near halfway that sold his keeper short and forced Hart into a sliding clearance with a boot.
Before this, City were unlucky not to take the lead through a series of chances of which at least one should have been converted. Navas, lining up on the right of a fluid 4-1-3-2, began these with a shot from the flank that was tipped over for the first corner by Matus Kozacik, the home keeper. Samir Nasri delivered the ensuing dead ball on to Dzeko's head and his flick-on demanded to be finished by Touré. Instead, the Ivorian's header found only the roof of the Plzen net.
The best of the visitors' chances came in quick succession. Agüero skated through the home midfield and, as a gap opened up, the forward unloaded a strike that skimmed across the turf, beyond Kozacik, only to rebound off his right post. Aleksandar Kolarov, in at left-back for Clichy, took aim with his left foot but could only hit the ball into Kozacik's hands. Kolarov also created a prime opening for Dzeko with a cross from his wing that found the No10 at point-blank range from the Plzen keeper, but Kozacik beat the header away.
Throughout the stanza Plzen found joy through the left boot of Pavel Horvath, their 38-year-old captain, who exposed City's vulnerability whenever he swung a high delivery into their area. Yet 12 minutes into the second half victory was secured as City transformed the score into a three-nil advantage.
First, Agüero outmuscled Lukas Hejda near halfway, remaining on his feet when he might have gone down to continue on to goal before unselfishly rolling the ball sideways to Dzeko, who blasted the ball past Kozacik.
The second came from Touré, the Ivorian producing a curling shot from 20 yards that the keeper could not stop.
Agüero finally had the strike his display deserved when a neat swivel was followed by a finish that gave his side an impregnable lead as he and the rest of Pellegrini's team could relax.