Luciano Spalletti has defended his decision to bench Aleksandr Kerzhakov and Bruno Alves in the UEFA Europa League tie and has lamented Nicolas Lombaerts injury
Zenit St. Petersburg head coach, Luciano Spalletti, has paid tribute to the defending Russian Premier League champions after they managed to book a place in the next round of the UEFA Europa League.
The St. Petersburg club managed to reach the quarter-finals of the European tournament despite suffering a 1-3 defeat in the return leg against Liverpool FC at Anfield. The Russian outfit progressed due to the away goal rule, having
notched up a 2-0 win at Petrovsky stadium last week.
Spalletti lavished praise on Igor Denisov, saying that the Russian International displayed quality football and instigate the game at the middle of the park.
“It was a great match, the result of which was not resolved until the last minute. But at the same time I was excited after watching each of the moments. I was beginning to worry but my players made me calm down: they did what
they had to do as required by the game.”
“I rarely praised any players individually but today I can only praise Denisov, who spent a great match. He played under pressure for entire 90 minutes, intercepted a lot of balls and showed great control of the ball.” The UEFA
Cup winner was quoted as saying.
The Italian tactician made some significant changes to the starting line-up on Thursday, playing Hulk as a lone striker and leaving players such as Aleksandr Kerzhakov and Bruno Alves on bench.
And although Spalletti made all three possible substitutions during the nail-biting European encounter, the 53-year-old did not call the services of the aforementioned benched players at Lane 4.
Speaking on their omission of these players from the first-team squad, Spalletti revealed that he played the Brazilian striker upfront following his virtuoso display in the first leg of the fixture.
Spalletti went on to lament Nicolas Lombaerts injury, saying that he had to replace the Belgian International after he was being stamped by Liverpool forward, Luis Suarez, on the legs.