Sergei Semak: “I liked the second half more, the first one was messy and slow paced”

The Zenit manager’s words on the match against Sochi.

Sergei Semak: “I liked the second half more, the first one was messy and slow paced”

“There are no easy matches, especially after the international break. It’s never clear what condition the players are going to be in when they come back from their national teams, so we have to be careful with the decision on who plays and how much. The match turned out to be quite difficult, in the first half we didn’t have much success in offence, in my opinion we were too slow. Therefore the intensity wasn’t as high. Sochi were playing mostly in defence and were able to cover all of the zones, they didn’t allow us to create chances. It was good that we scored from a set-piece, that goal opened up the game a little bit. The second half was more open, we had more chances, more space and more opportunities to score. The second half looked different in this aspect. Speaking of chances created near Sochi’s goal, we were able to score again and had a few more shots. We increased the intensity and balanced the way we played in defence. I liked the second half more, the first one was messy and slow paced.”

Cassierra and Sergeev didn’t start the match today, so the third forward, Wilson Isidor, played from the first minute. Were you considering any other formations, perhaps with repositioning one of the wingers to the center?

“Speaking of attacking players, we do have issues. Cassierra is injured and Ivan Sergeev wasn’t feeling well in the last couple of days, so he wasn’t fully ready. Therefore we only had Isidor and we tried to play him from the start. He received some playing time against Neftçi on this position. We have Andrey Mostovoy who has previously played in attack. We had two options in mind, and if we didn’t, we would’ve had to come up with something else and change someone else’s position. Although at the moment this is the best formation with the players that are available.”

You’ve said this before, the players choose who takes the penalty themselves. Mostovoy clearly wanted to take this one, so he grabbed the ball and tried to convince Claudinho to let him do it. Claudinho didn’t allow him to, so he took it and didn’t score. Did he explain why he took the ball from Andrey afterwards, or are there any rules regarding that at Zenit? What would you say about Claudinho’s shot?

“We rarely get to take penalties, but when we don’t make a decision on who would take it beforehand, that’s when we end up getting a penalty. We have players who can take penalties, so they make this decision based on their condition. It’s not a problem though, penalties depend on luck, although we would like the players to score. Next time it’s going to be another player who takes the penalty. If one player had a chance to score but didn’t use it, he has to let someone else try.”

Nikita Goylo was Sochi’s goalkeeper today, and he is there on loan. He played well, had a few good saves, including the penalty. Do you think he deserves to return to Zenit? Does he have a chance?

“We’ll see, we follow him at Sochi, and it’s not easy for him either, Zabolotniy was playing in the previous matches. That means Nikita is currently losing the competition to him in some aspects. Today he played well. It’s important for a goalkeeper to have stability. We follow him and Odoevskiy, and we want them to get more playing practice. It also depends on mentality, it’s one thing when you’re the goalkeeper of Sochi, but when you’re playing at Zenit you have to play really well. Therefore it adds responsibility that can get in the way mentally, especially with the younger goalkeepers. Everything depends on them, and we will gladly return all of the players who are currently on loan when they feel more confident and would be able to compete with the players who are at Zenit now.”

Why did you substitute Alip, was it an injury or just a precaution?

“I hope it was just a precaution. Alip plays a lot now. I think switching pitch surfaces made an impact on his and Eraković’s muscles. Strahinja wasn’t playing and then was called up by the Serbian team, it’s tough for him physically. Alip is a bit tired both physically and mentally as Kazakhstan had an important game that he participated in. The players return in different condition. Now we have to rest a little and get ready for the next match.”