"It was 50-50 who deserved it," admitted Nicolas Lombaerts after FC Zenit St Petersburg lost 3-1 at Anfield but scraped into the last 16 to leave home goalscorer Joe Allen frustrated.
Relief was the overriding emotion for FC Zenit St Petersburg after they scraped into the UEFA Europa League round of 16 on away goals following a tough night at Liverpool FC. "It was 50-50 who deserved it," admitted Zenit defender Nicolas Lombaerts after a 3-1 second-leg defeat for the Russian champions left the sides tied 3-3 on aggregate, and for Liverpool's Joe Allen there was only frustration.
Nicolas Lombaerts, Zenit defender
It was a tough game. We expected it – we knew from the beginning it would be tough and that they'd pressurise us and they did. We waited for the mistake and they made a mistake, and in the end that was important. We pressurised [Jamie] Carragher well – he made a mistake and [Hulk] had all the time, one against one. Some players hesitate and he didn't – he stayed calm and finished it well. If Liverpool had got through we couldn't have said anything. At home we could have scored more than two times but they could have scored also. It was 50-50 who deserved it [to go through].
Axel Witsel, Zenit midfielder
It was crazy – we had a lot of pressure against us with the fans. They gave a power to Liverpool – it was not easy. After they scored the third [...] anything could have happened but we were strong and we're happy because we got the qualification. I played here with Standard and it was crazy like tonight. Against Basel [in the round of 16] it'll be two good games. We have to win the home leg and score two or three goals, then we'll see. It's important to take it game by game – we have the team to maybe get to the final but we have to stay relaxed and not think about that now.
Luís Neto, Zenit defender
I think we had a good first 15 minutes, but the [first Luis] Suárez goal and then the other goal before half-time gave Liverpool strength and we got a bit nervous. It was an important step for us – it was a tough draw against a team who are very strong at home with their fans behind them. We went through a tough time – we were under pressure and Liverpool kept us penned in, but after Suárez got their third, we had more of the ball and made it through.
Joe Allen, Liverpool midfielder
It's very frustrating – to win 3-1 and not go through is tough to take. We really gave everything we could to get through, unfortunately we didn't quite get there. It was good to get [my first] goal of course at Anfield [but] as a player it's almost irrelevant – you want to be part of a result that takes you through. You could see tonight it was still possible. We were in a difficult position coming into a home tie 2-0 down and there's not many positives to take but one of them is the fact we almost did it.
The atmosphere was incredible and that makes it tough for opposing teams to come and play and also lifts our performance. The intensity to our game made it tough for them. We had them against the ropes and maybe if we'd had just that little bit of luck it would have been enough to carry us through.