UEFA.com works better on other browsers
For the best possible experience, we recommend using Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

Hulk and Witsel bask in Zenit victory

Goalscorers Hulk and Axel Witsel were thrilled to help FC Zenit to an opening 2-0 win at SL Benfica while both sides agreed that Artur's sending-off was a key factor.

Hulk and Witsel bask in Zenit victory
Hulk and Witsel bask in Zenit victory ©AFP/Getty Images

Hulk and Axel Witsel scored to give Zenit a 2-0 win at Benfica and both were thrilled
André Villas-Boas was delighted to end Benfica's 51-game unbeaten home run
Jorge Jesus rued Artur's sending-off at 1-0 but praised the Benfica fans
Jesus and Andreas Samaris promised that Benfica would bounce back

Hulk, Zenit forward
I am happy about being man of the match and it is always good to come back to Portugal where I have many friends. Some of them even came from Porto to watch the game. I am delighted with this result at Benfica's stadium.

The coach knew the importance of this match as he was very good in keeping us focused on this game. He warned us about Benfica – who are a good team – and we started very well. We were fortunate in the first 25 minutes, managing to score two goals, and then we were able to control the match.

It was great play by Oleg Shatov for my goal. He made a wonderful pass and I only needed to put the chance away. However, the most important thing was the performance of the team, not only my goal and Witsel's. Every player was terrific and that's the most important thing.

Our goal is to try to go as far as we can in the competition. This year we have the strongest team since I arrived. We are a very focused team who like to keep the ball. Apart from that we have a great coach. Obviously Luciano Spalletti was a good coach too but André Villas-Boas is a great motivator.

Axel Witsel, Zenit midfielder
We did a good job and we scored twice so I'm happy after this game. I didn't go mad when I scored because I played here for a year and I respect everybody. I was very happy inside when I scored but I did not celebrate because I have a great deal of respect for the club and the supporters. It was a little bit strange to return here and be in the opposition dressing room. I went into Benfica's dressing room and my former team-mates asked me: "Why did you do that to us?" Of course they were joking with me.

It's been a good Champions League for me so far with going back to Belgium to Standard [in the play-offs] and now here, seeing old colleagues. It was a perfect result for us and we have to continue like this in the Champions League. The coach told us it was very important to start the game well. We knew they'd want to put pressure on us in the first 15 minutes but we began strongly and it's true that after the red card it was easier for us.

Nicolas Lombaerts, Zenit defender
It was special and really good to start with a win from a psychological point of view. Today we got three points and then if we win our next game at home we'll move on to six points and it will look really good. We went through with six points last year but I don't think that will be enough this time. I think you need ten points to get through usually.

We were expecting them to hit us hard from the first whistle but we found the gaps between the lines and then there was a red card and they had to play with ten men for the rest of the game. We knew they played with a high back four so there was space there for us to exploit. In the second half we relaxed a little and tried to keep the ball towards the end as if we had the ball they wouldn't be able to create.

André Villas-Boas issues instructions in Lisbon
André Villas-Boas issues instructions in Lisbon©AFP/Getty Images

André Villas-Boas, Zenit coach
The first half was good for us. Benfica struggled after the red card. In the second half we wanted to get the third, but we always controlled the match. We had some chances that we missed but Benfica could have also made it 2-1, but it's excellent to win away. Doing it in a hard group such as this one was fundamental, moreover in a stadium that hadn't seen a home defeat for so long. It was a total success to us, in a good performance, controlling the game.

It's premature to speak about it [last 16], it depends on the result of the next match. If we beat Monaco then we could be in a good position to go through. In an even group it was important to score points away. Let's see what we now do at home.

Jorge Jesus, Benfica coach
First I want to thank the fans [for applauding the team for the last five minutes]. This is my sixth season here and I have never seen anything like this: a crowd losing 2-0, understanding the team's problems, seeing the players doing their best with ten men. I am truly thankful for this help. It will help for sure in the next matches. We never had any doubts that they were always with us, but today was a very good and strong feeling. It touched the players deeply and gave us a boost for the future. We have to thank them on the pitch now.

It's not normal for Benfica to start a match doing what should not be done in order to avoid Zenit's strength in the middle. That area was not OK. Zenit took advantage of two mistakes to score. The opening minutes were bad for us, which is not normal.

It was a chastening match for Benfica
It was a chastening match for Benfica©AFP/Getty Images

We were surprised with the strong run from Hulk that produced the first goal. There was too much room for Axel Witsel and Danny in the middle. Then Artur was sent off. Losing 2-0 and with ten, we had to change a lot at the break. I think we were better with ten than with 11.

Although the Champions League is a short league we are not out yet. It's all too close and only at the very end things will be decided. I believe that we'll get through. If we had made it 2-1 we would have got back into the match.

This defeat doesn't end our ambitions. In this group we can lose at home and win away. We have everything we need to go to Russia and win. AS Monaco also beat Bayer Leverkusen. The next match against Leverkusen will be the same as today. The responsibility and pressure will be the same as today. The difference is that today we lost.

Andreas Samaris, Benfica midfielder
We are disappointed. We were playing at home so it was a game that we wanted to win. We conceded a goal earlier than we expected. Then we tried to play our game, but with Artur sent off it became difficult to turn the game around. Now we have to react to this defeat, learn from our mistakes and I believe we will be better in the next game.

Selected for you