Midfielder Anatoliy Tymoshchuk hopes FC Zenit are not punished for missed opportunities against FC Nordsjælland when the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round tie concludes on Wednesday.
Tymoshchuk, deployed in an unfamiliar right-back position last week in Farum, watched Andrey Arshavin and Hulk test Nordsjælland goalkeeper Martin Hansen before the break. As it was, Aleksandr Kerzhakov replaced Arshavin at half-time and swiftly struck the only goal of the first leg, leaving Luciano Spalletti's men in the driving seat to reach the play-offs.
The Ukrainian international, though, thinks the tie should have been all but over ahead of the return match at the Stadion Petrovski. "Them playing aggressively, running a lot and pushing forward was not a surprise, but we still should have taken advantage of the chances we had in the first half," said the 34-year-old, who in June rejoined the club with whom he won the 2008 UEFA Cup.
"Had we taken the two or three great chances we had, the tie would be settled. We were better but that is football. The 1-0 scoreline doesn't show a big difference between the teams so now we have to focus on the second leg in St Petersburg."
Though the former FC Bayern München anchorman expects Zenit to carve out the better openings at home, he saw enough in Denmark to appreciate that a place in the next round is far from certain. "Our opponents didn't create many opportunities but they still have a good team," he said. "The character of their team is typically Scandinavian – they fight till the end. In St Petersburg we have to give 100% for the whole 90 minutes, plus added time."
The game plan for Nordsjælland who, like Zenit, have made a slow start to their domestic season, will be to stay compact and frustrate their hosts. "I am not going to reveals our tactics now – they will find out when we go there – but we need to keep a clean sheet for as long as possible," said keeper Hansen, for whom the first leg was his UEFA club competition debut. "If we manage that until the last ten to 15 minutes, then anything can happen."
The 23-year-old summer signing from Viborg FF added: "It's a difficult result to take to Russia, but if we are not positive about it then we might as well not travel. We know we can create chances against a team like Zenit. If we play as we did in the second half, then we should be optimistic, but it is going to be a tough challenge for us."