Celebration of Zenit's UEFA triumph goes strong in St Petersburg

Russian politicians stumbled over themselves to exalt St Petersburg club Zenit Thursday on their 2-0 UEFA cup victory over the Rangers in Manchester, dpa reported.

Former president Vladimir Putin, who filled Moscow's government with allies from his native St Petersburg, was the first offer praises phone Dutch coach Dick Advocaat immediately after the game.

"Putin said the win was a brilliant confirmation of the rise of the country's football and sports in general," Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday.

"Russia is at the Zenith" trumpeted the headline of popular daily Tvoi Den, while state mouthpiece Rossiskaya Gazeta triumphantly stamped "Zenit Delivers the Rangers A Black Eye" across the front and back page Thursday.

"The football God was on the side of our champions," wrote newspaper, and congratulations poured on in the capital, growing in hyperbole.

Putin's successor, another St Petersburg native and confirmed fan, said all of Russia "had been starving for such a win."

"The first goal was beautiful. It immediately made me feel like getting out and playing football myself," the Russian president enthused.

Head of energy monopoly Gazprom Alexei Miller, Zenit's main sponsors, weighed in with more exclamation and a promise the team would only move up from there.

"Last year St Petersburg became Russia's football capital. Today, it is the football capital for all of Europe," Miller was quoted by news agency Interfax as saying.

"Everybody expected for it to be an easy win for us," tempered Advocaat, "But it was more difficult because the expectation was on our side ... winning a prize like this does not come often in your life."

There was no champagne at hand for the thirsty Zenit players after the match, but Russian journalists caught them on their way to a sure hangover.

The man dubbed best player of the match Andrei Arshavin boasted, "I am already a little drunk, and I think I will carry on!"

Asked by popular daily Moskovsky Kommsomolets how they were celebrating Wednesday, Zenit midfielder Konstantine Zyryanov answered for the team: "We'll drink beer!"

"After we fly to Petersburg. There we will celebrate. And after I will go on to Moscow and again celebrate there. I have four days until the national team meets. I think, it'll be enough," he laughed.

St Petersburg residents seemed ready to join uphold a longer party. Some 200 fans waving banners and blocking traffic grew in number Thursday as the work day ended or they recovered from embracing thousands of other proud supporters until the wee morning hours.

Zenit is the second Russian team to win the UEFA Cup and Russia's new minister of sports Vitaly Mutko hailed the win as a present for all of Russia.

"In this game there was everything - passion, remarkable tactics, bright self-sacrifice and gamesmanship by our football players. All this speaks to Russian football's enormous potential," Mutko told journalists in Moscow on Thursday.

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