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Italian midfielder Gaetano D'Agostino has admitted deliberately stopping
Italian midfielder Gaetano D'Agostino has admitted deliberately stopping the ball with his hand to prevent a Zenit St. Petersburg goal during Thursday's second-leg UEFA Cup match.

After losing the first leg of their round-of-32 tie 2-0 in Italy on March 12, cup holders Zenit could only manage a 1-0 win over Udinese in Russia's northern capital on Thursday and crashed out of the tournament.

However, things could have been very different had English referee Martin Atkinson spotted D'Agostino putting out his arm to block an Anatoliy Tymoshchuk header in the 16th minute. Not only would Zenit have had a penalty, but D'Agostino would have been shown a red card, leaving the Italians a man short.

"It was a fraction of a second," the player told the AGI news agency. "I wasn't thinking about anything at the moment, but I believe that if I hadn't touched the ball, our opponents would have scored. At the end of the day, the referee didn't notice, and I saved our team. I did it specially, as I was the only player stopping the ball from going into the net."

"Of course, it would have been better if I had confessed to the referee. But in that case I wouldn't have got out of the dressing room alive. My teammates would have wanted to kill me," he said.


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