Luciano Spalletti: “Our team has incredible heart”
00:56, Thursday, 16 February 2012
00:56, Thursday, 16 February 2012

Luciano Spalletti: “Our team has incredible heart”

After his team`s victory over Benfica, Zenit head coach Luciano Spalletti said that his squad showed its character yet again, explained why he bet on Kanunnikov, and complimented Sergey Semak`s goal as one of the most beautiful he`s ever seen.

— As I already said yesterday, our team has great character and incredible heart. Maybe Benfica has the same, since they were able to tie the score in a match where Zenit had more chances to score. We did what we were planning to do, what we were supposed to do, despite the poor condition of the pitch. We made scoring chances, and managed to score three really beautiful goals. Semak`s goal is one of the most beautiful that my teams have scored, and I will remember it forever.

— Is Vladimir Bystrov unready to play 90 minutes, or was it your plan to put him on as a substitute?
— He`s not ready to play 90 minutes yet. That`s was clear.

— Did the decision to start Kanunnikov in such an important match come to you long before today`s game?
— No, I made that decision just a few days ago. It often happens like that — I think something up, then I change my mind, but I didn`t do that this time. I think that Kanunnikov played a good match, although he needs to gain more confidence. But he played really well. I needed a physically strong player who would look good against Benfica`s defense, a player who could fight for balls that were kicked far upfield. That was my idea. Kanunnikov helped me with that.

— Were you surprised by Benfica in any way? How much easier will it be for Zenit to play in Lisbon now, considering the score in this match?
— No, Benfica didn`t surprise me. We knew how strong they are, but my team made me proud, because we managed to show what we did even against such a strong opponent. We have a minimal advantage, but it`s still something. We understand that we have to get the required result in Lisbon by just playing our football. We have to play football and achieve our goals. The aggregate result is still undecided.

— Let us congratulate you and give you a hat from the Russian Cross-Country Ski Marathon — the biggest sporting event in Russia. Zenit`s psychological approach not only pleased us, it amazed us. Did you say any key words to make that mood in the team? Can you tell us what the most difficult moment in this match was for you, and the happiest?
— I think the hardest thing in this match was to get ready and adjust to our opponent, and to deal with their level of technical quality and skill. As for specific moments, then that was the situation when the score was 2:2. At that moment Zenit proved that it has enormous character and heart, and we changed the course of the match, scoring the winning goal. As for the happiest moment, we have to get that in the return match. I leave that for the match in Lisbon.

— How do you appraise Bruno Alves` play in today`s match, especially the episode when he injured the opponent? What are you expecting from the away leg in Lisbon?
— As for Alves, when he got the yellow card he was trying to play on the ball. The Benfica player got injured falling on the ground, not from the contact with Alves. Overall Bruno played a good match. As for the second match, we know that Benfica has great skill, but we want to measure our own skill on their level, and want to play without any fear against teams that might be better than us.

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