Midfielder Axel Witsel likened FC Nordsjælland to FC Barcelona, so was understandably delighted that his FC Zenit team secured a 1-0 first-leg victory.
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FC Zenit midfielder Axel Witsel was delighted after his side secured a 1-0 victory at FC Nordsjælland, but said the Danish team's playing style – which reminded him of FC Barcelona – had made for a difficult UEFA Champions League third qualifying round opener.
Axel Witsel, Zenit midfielder
They keep the ball on the ground and they want to bring the goalkeeper into play. They do that very well. You have to train a lot to learn to play like that. Barcelona play like that. OK, FC Nordsjælland are not Barcelona, but they play like them.
We could have played better in the first [few] games of the Russian championship – we only have four points – but we played well today. A 1-0 [win] here is fine because we have the next game at home in front of our fans.
We had a lot of chances, but we scored only once – it could have been better. We have to learn from this game before the next match at home. When you get as many opportunities as we did today, you have to score more goals. The result is good for us, but anything can happen in football. Sometimes it can be crazy, so we have to be careful.
Kasper Hjulmand, Nordsjælland coach
I am disappointed with the result. It was a very tight game – there were almost the same number of chances at both ends. It ended up a disappointing defeat, but I am happy with the performance. The team did well. We fought hard, we invested in the match and we played our own style and created chances. It was a good, solid performance. We cannot expect to create more chances than we did today, but we just needed to take them.
We had just had a big chance at the other end and 20 seconds later the ball was in the back of our net. That was the deciding moment, when Aleksandr Kerzhakov got behind Ivan Runje and scored the goal. Their counterattacks are dangerous, because Zenit are quick and they are attack-minded.
Kerzhakov is good at getting in behind defenders. So are Andrey Arshavin, Hulk and Danny, especially when they get the ball and run with it. They can keep up the pace and look for the right pass. Hulk and Danny are incredible counterattacking players.