Rough play from Russian defenders and lenient refereeing meant that Kyle Lafferty faced a "battle" as a lone front man in Northern Ireland's 2-0 World Cup qualifying defeat to Russia on Friday.
Goals for the hosts from Viktor Faizulin and Roman Shirokov gave Russia the win in Moscow, with Lafferty trying to hold up the ball for Northern Ireland coach Michael O'Neill's long-ball tactics.
"It was a battle," Lafferty said when asked about the refereeing.
"I got a few kicks but I think everyone knew, coming here, on their home turf, that it's going to be hard to get free-kicks and stuff. It's just one of them games."
Northern Ireland's fighting spirit is one of the positives the team can take to their next World Cup qualifier at home to Luxembourg on Tuesday.
The match was O'Neill's first competitive game in charge, and Lafferty was full of praise for his new boss.
"I think he's probably the best manager I've played under in the national team," he said.
"Although there was a lot of running today, it was a game that I enjoyed and I never thought I would say that I enjoyed a game of football with so much running."
"That's what O'Neill's brought to the team, with the coaching staff, so it's definitely good."
O'Neill joined Northern Ireland from Irish side Shamrock Rovers, who he guided to the group stage of the Europa League last season.
Lafferty moved to Swiss club FC Sion in the summer after leaving Scotland's crisis-hit Rangers.