Málaga CF scorer Seba says the Spanish side are reaping the rewards of a hard pre-season after sealing top spot in Group C, ending FC Zenit St Petersburg's ambitions in the process.
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Málaga CF's UEFA Champions League debut goes from strength to strength after they sealed top spot in Group C, ahead of seven-time European champions AC Milan, with a 2-2 draw that also ended FC Zenit St Petersburg's hopes. It has been a fairy tale for the Spanish side and Seba, who scored his first goal since February, believes their success is down to "focusing hard on playing and working to the best of our ability". Axel Witsel, meanwhile, lamented the poor start that left Zenit 2-0 down before recovering.
Seba, Málaga forward
I'm delighted to be named [UEFA.com users' Player Rater] man of the match. It is a prize for my work, for my effort. I have not played much this season so this is important for me.
The secret of Málaga's success is that we suffered a lot in pre-season. We focus hard on playing and on working to the best of our ability. We only contemplate winning every game that we play. Zenit did not play that badly, but we had a great game. That is why Zenit did not fare as well as they would have wanted.
Roque Santa Cruz, Málaga forward
We have had a good run of games in the UEFA Champions League and are creating history for the club. We are savouring every minute of this – the club are going places. We really deserve it because of the way we are playing and because we really try hard – that's why we are where we are.
We came here to seal first place and that's what we did. In normal circumstances we would be disappointed not to have won. The fact we managed to score two early goals meant we were able to sit back and hope for space on the counterattack.
In the end, the game could have gone either way, because we had good chances to score in the last few minutes. We should have been more patient in possession, but this is what you get in the Champions League because it's very hard and there is a lot of pressure as the game is really fast. It's a good exercise for us.
Axel Witsel, Zenit midfielder
In the first 20 minutes we didn't play very well and made a number of mistakes – that was the main reason we weren't able to get a victory. Otherwise, we played quite well. Our passing game improved as the match went on and we were looking good. It was just a shame that we were unable to get the third goal that we desperately needed.
We played much better in the second half as we had nothing to lose. So we were saying to ourselves that if we could score in the first 15 minutes we would have a chance of getting back into the game – that's what we managed to do. We just couldn't find a winner and that is a shame.
Hulk, Zenit forward
It was a difficult game. We knew we were up against tough opponents in Málaga. We conceded two goals from two mistakes, but, later on, when they slowed the pace, we got back into the game and eventually drew level. We were just not able to score the third goal that would have given us the win. The team reacted well and now we just have to hold our heads high and carry on playing well.
The first and second halves were very different – we were more focused in the second half. We went into the interval trailing 2-0 and that was the spur to get back into the game. The team responded well and we could have scored the third goal, but unfortunately it wasn't to be.