A Nicolas Lombaerts goal
just before half-time earned Zenit St Petersburg a precious 1-0
win over Shakhtar Donetsk in their Champions League Group G
match on Tuesday.
The Belgian defender headed home from a corner moments
before the break to settle a scrappy encounter.
The Russian champions, who were unlucky to come away with a
2-2 draw against Shakhtar two weeks ago, dominated for much of
the first half but with leading scorer Alexander Kerzhakov
sidelined with an ankle injury they wasted their chances.
Shakhtar keeper Olexandr Rybka, outstanding in earning his
side a point in the Donetsk clash, again came to his team's
rescue, denying the home side on several occasions.
Midway through the opening half he made a double save, first
stopping Igor Denisov's shot from the edge of the box before
kicking away the second attempt from Konstantin Zyryanov.
Rybka also stopped a powerful header from Alexander Bukharov
while winger Danny hit the post from a tight angle before
Lombaerts struck with virtually the last play of the first half.
The Ukrainian champions pressed hard for an equaliser after
the break but, without the injured Brazilian duo of Fernandinho
and Jadson, were unable to make use of their possession.
Zenit coach Luciano Spalletti said his team were the
deserved winners. "I think we played a near perfect match
tonight," the Italian told reporters.
"We totally dominated the first half, taking 15 shots on
goal while our opponents failed to hit the target even once.
They played better in the second half but we didn't want to take
too many risks and just controlled the tempo."
Zenit midfielder Roman Shirokov added: "I think you can call
us the group favourites now. We still have one more home game to
play against this surprising team [APOEL], but we must beat them
and advance to the knockout round."
The defeat left Shakhtar, who reached the Champions League
quarter-finals last season, bottom of the group on two points.
"They played better than us in the first half while we were
too tight," conceded Shakhtar's Romanian coach Mircea Lucescu.
"We improved a bit in the second half, creating a few
chances. But we dearly missed Fernandinho and Jadson. I think we
would have looked like a different team with them playing."
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