Zenit St Petersburg defender Branislav Ivanovic has admitted that he was ‘surprised’ by the performance levels of Celtic during the first leg of the Europa League round of 32 tie. The Hoops produced a strong showing in front of their home supporters, and they were eventually rewarded after Callum McGregor clinched a 78th-minute winner for the Scottish champions.
In an interview covered by The Scotsman, the 33-year-old, who has previously plyed his trade for Chelsea, conceded that he was astonished by the performance of Brendan Rodgers’ side, but he expects Zenit to come back with a strong response of their own when they host the Hoops in the return leg at the Krestovsky Stadium next week.
The Serbian captain missed the first-leg of the European tie with an eye injury, but he is hoping to start the reverse fixture, he said: “I hope to have permission from the doctor to start the game next week and am very much looking forward to it. The first leg was a very interesting game and I thought the atmosphere at Celtic Park was amazing. Celtic were great, I was surprised by them. They surprised me with a lot of things. I knew the supporters would be behind them but they were a very dangerous team.”
The Russian outfit appeared partly prepared at Parkhead following an extended two-month break in mid-season, and Mancini will be aiming to get more out of his side in the second-leg in order to avoid successive exits at the same stage of the competition.
Zenit, who are presently second in the Russian Premier League, lost out to Anderlecht last time around after Isaac Kiese Thelin popped up with a late strike at the Krestovsky Stadium – which allowed the Belgian side to progress on the away-goal rule following a 3-3 aggregate score.