|Dinamo Minsk||CSKA Sofia|
|Tirana||FC Naţional Bucureşti|
FC Encamp Dicoansa 0-5 FC Zenit St. Petersburg
Zenit effectively sealed a UEFA Cup first-round berth after thrashing Encamp in Andorra tonight.
Two goals from Andrei Arshavin gave Zenit a comfortable lead before Aleksandr Spivak, Dmitri Makarov and Sergei Osipov made it an almost impossible task for Encamp in the return leg at the Petrovsky stadium in two weeks' time.
Zenit took a threadbare squad of just 14 players to Andorra after being hit by a series of injuries to key players, but they put that behind them with an excellent start to this match. In the second minute, Arshavin fired them into the lead after an incisive pass from Makarov. Yet, to the Andorrans' immense credit, they battled hard and held Zenit at bay for the remainder of the first half.
The Russians moved 2-0 up six minutes after the break when Arshavin netted his second of the match and Spivak then extended the lead when he converted a penalty after he had been fouled in the box. Zenit continued to press and Makarov hit the fourth in the 64th minute after a Boris Gorovoy cross, with Osipov capping the five-star display 19 minutes from time.
Zenit coach happy with second half
Zenit coach Mikhail Birioukov blamed complacency for his side's poor first half, and praised the attacking appraoch of Encamp. He said: “We did play too well in the first half. In the second half we were more efficient and managed to convert the chances we created to add four goals to the scoresheet. In the second half, all my players performed better and passed the ball much quicker. After having scored in the second minute of play, my players probably thought it would be all easy, and that probably explains why we had so many problems in the first part of the match.
“We didn’t know that much about Encamp prior to this match," he added, "and I was honestly surprised to see them play so offensively. I would have expected to see them playing more defendsive.”
Fitness a factor - Encamp coach
Vitor Domingos Dos Santos singled out Zenit's superior fitness as being decisive: “We played quite well as long as we could cope physically with our opponents. However, as soon as my players started to lose their strengths they overran us. When your rival doesn’t allow you to play and you are physically inferior, it becomes impossible for you to create any serious danger and that is what happened to us".
Pride in players
He added: "However, I am still very proud of my players. They fought throughout the entire match and gave everything. In the first half we were able to keep with their pace and limit the score to a 1-0 deficit. In the second half, once we started to get tired, we got into trouble. The early goal after only two minutes certainly killed us a bit. In two weeks time in St. Petersburg we will try again to attack as much as we can and not just sit back and defend.”
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