Wed, May 14, 2008 - Page 20 News List

Goal-hungry Zenit not intimidated by Rangers' defense


Standing in the way of Zenit St. Petersburg's first European title is a Rangers defense that has been breached just twice en route to today's UEFA Cup final.

Zenit isn't fazed by the barrier awaiting at the City of Manchester of Stadium.

"The best way to beat a packed defense is with some unexpected moves and pieces of individual skill," captain Anatoliy Tymoschuk said. "We just have to wait and see how we do against them."

"Everything we need is in our hands, our legs and our heads."

One thing they will be missing is striker Pavel Pogrebnyak, the competition's top scorer, who is suspended.

"It will not be an easy game, taking into account that Pogrebnyak will not play," midfielder Roman Shirokov said. "I hope that [Fatih] Tekke and [Alejandro] Dominguez will be able to substitute for him."

Pogrebnyak contributed half the Russians' 14 goals in the eight knockout phase matches. But his teammates still notched up more goals than Rangers, which netted just five times.

"They don't score many, but they also concede very few," Tymoschuk said. "No one qualifies for a final undeservedly." Rangers manager Walter Smith has been on the defensive over his team's guarded approach, while relishing being labeled underdogs.

"It doesn't offend in any way, shape or form," Smith said. "That is the way it has been throughout this European campaign, so we just have to accept that and get on with it. So far, we've had a lot of negative comments about us."

Chairman David Murray has been boasting how the Rangers wage bill is £5 million [US$9.8 million] less than that of Derby County, the English club relegated from the Premier League last weekend as the worst in the history of top flight.

Smith is surprised at how quickly the team has gelled in his first full season back at Ibrox, where he was replaced in 1998 by current Zenit coach Dick Advocaat.

"We've had a lot of situations where people say that Rangers play anti-football, rubbish football or whatever," the 60-year-old Smith said. "But for a first-year team, we've settled in well and, for those teams that have lost to us, if they are that good, why have they not beaten us?"

Rangers is looking to emulate its only European triumph, by denying Russian opposition just as it did in 1972 in the now-defunct Cup Winners'Cup.

"It would be nice to make history," said Rangers striker Nacho Novo.

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