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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Zenit Axes Coach After Cup Exit

APPetrjela on the bench Wednesday
Vlastimil Petrjela has been fired as head coach of Zenit St. Petersburg after a string of poor results left the club out of two cup competitions and wallowing in midtable in the Premier League.

"There was a meeting of the club's board of directors. We thanked Petrjela for his work over the last three years -- he created a very strong group, but at the same time the club faces new challenges that we will approach with a new coach," the club's president, Sergei Fursenko, said in an interview with Sport-Express after the club's 1-0 loss to CSKA in their Russian Cup semifinal first leg.

"The [Zenit] president and I didn't see eye to eye. I tried to fight that," Petrjela told Sovietsky Sport on Wednesday.

Although Petrjela had a frosty relationship with the club's board, he may have reason to be frustrated at his dismissal. He had guided Zenit to the quarterfinals of the UEFA Cup this season -- an unprecedented achievement for the club.

And although Zenit is ninth in the league after six games, winning its game in hand will elevate it to fourth place on 11 points, even with Krylya Sovietov and FK Moscow -- and just three points behind joint-leaders Rubin Kazan and Tom Tomsk.

Petrjela left star striker Andrei Arshavin -- a national team regular -- out of the starting lineup in the CSKA game, a factor that may have added to the board of directors' frustrations.

Neither coach nor player would be drawn on that decision after the game.

Zenit board member Mikhail Zlydnikov commented on Pretjela's firing in an interview with Kommersant.

"It has been leading to Pretjela's dismissal for a long time. He needed to work and not behave like he has been recently. ... Why didn't he play Arshavin against CSKA? Was it some kind of petty revenge?" he said.

Assistant coach Vladimir Borovichka has been made interim manager while the board searches for a permanent replacement.

Zenit travels to Moscow again this Saturday for a league game against 10th-placed Lokomotiv, whose boss, Slavoljub Muslin, is under similar pressure to turn his club's fortunes around.

The second leg of the cup semifinal against CSKA is scheduled for next Wednesday.

 Several players from North Korea could soon join Krylya Sovietov after representatives from the Premier League club visited the reclusive communist state last week, Reuters reported

The two sides have signed an agreement, paving the way for the first North Koreans to show their skills in Russia's top division.