Soccer-Advocaat savours Zenit's UEFA Cup triumph

MANCHESTER, May 14 (Reuters) - Dick Advocaat savoured Zenit St Petersburg’s UEFA Cup triumph on Wednesday after a 2-0 win over Rangers secured a first European trophy for the Dutch coach.

“I have won championships but now winning the UEFA Cup I have almost everything,” Advocaat told a news conference after Zenit’s victory over the Scottish side he guided to two league titles between 1998 and 2002.

“Everybody expected it to be an easy game for us but it was harder than (against semi-final opponents) Bayern Munich who we were expected to lose against.

“Today it was more difficult because the expectation was on our side. But the players handled it well. We scored two brilliant goals and deserved to win.”

Advocaat took over Zenit in June 2006 after stepping down as South Korea manager when his team were eliminated from the World Cup finals in Germany.

He previously led the Netherlands to the quarter-finals of the 1994 World Cup and the semi-finals of Euro 2004.

In a light-hearted news conference, Advocaat was asked if Russian teams with Dutch managers were jinxing British teams.

It was a reference to Guus Hiddink’s success in guiding Russia to the Euro 2008 finals while England, who lost out to Croatia and Russia in their qualifying group, will not be in the tournament starting on June 7 in Austria and Switzerland.

“I think it is time to try Dutch coaches in England, maybe it helps a little bit,” replied Advocaat to much laughter.


Man-of-the-match Andrei Arshavin, a constant threat to Rangers and supplier of the incisive pass that put Igor Denisov through to break the deadlock after 72 minutes, said Zenit were made to work hard for their victory.

“Rangers played a good defensive game, we expected them to defend well and if we let a goal in first we might have had problems,” he told reporters.

“We controlled the game from the start, we attacked more and when we scored first I knew we would win.”

Rangers coach Walter Smith felt Zenit’s opening goal came at a time when his side were putting the Russians under serious pressure for the first time in the match.

Rangers failed to test Zenit goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev until the second half but had two penalty claims turned down by Swedish referee Peter Frojdfeldt.

“I felt in the first half Zenit were the better side. In the second half we came into the game but we conceded at a bad time. The (opening) goal changed the complexion of the game,” said Smith, who said Arshavin was the difference between the sides.

“When you look at the man-of -the-match, we have not had someone who can do something a bit different. We have lacked someone to give us that extra bit of creativity.”

Midfielder Konstantin Zyrianov sealed the victory from close range in stoppage time after a fine passing move at the City of Manchester stadium to spark Russian celebrations.

Smith refused to blame the defeat, which ended Rangers unlikely quest to win four trophies, on fatigue in a hectic season that will stretch to 68 games for the Ibrox side.

Rangers, already Scottish League Cup winners, are still contesting the league title and will line up in the Scottish FA Cup final later this month.

“It will be difficult to judge just how much the disappointment (of losing) takes out of us,” added Smith. “We have the opportunity, with four games to go, to win two (more) trophies.”

Editing by Ken Ferris