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Real beat unlucky Zenit to make it two from two

Real Madrid maintained their unbeaten start in the Champions League group stage with a 2-1 win over Zenit St Petersburg here on Tuesday making it the first time in five years they have won their opening two matches.

UEFA Cup and Super Cup holders Zenit, coached by Dutchman Dick Advocaat, welcomed back star striker Andrei Arshavin, who was missing for their opening Group H loss to Juventus.

Real coach Bernd Schuster, who was having to make do without injured midfielder Guti, started Raul on the bench as he and his multi-millionaire squad went in search of a follow up win after seeing off BATE Borisov of Belarus a fortnight ago.

The Spaniards, who travelled to Saint Petersburg in buoyant form having won their last four league games, were rewarded for coming out of the blocks smartly with an own goal from Tomas Hubocan in the fourth minute.

Rafael van der Vaart set up the attack when hurtling down the right, the recently recruited Dutch international helped considerably when his marker Igor Denisov slipped allowing him to cross with the hapless Hubocan diverting the ball past Zenit keeper Vyacheslav Malafeev.

In the 21st minute Real keeper and captain Iker Casillas did well to block Konstantin Zyranov's shot but three minutes later positive-minded Zenit were back level.

The man responsible was Danny, who signed for a Russian record 30 million euros from Dynamo Moscow in August.

The Caracas-born Portuguese midfielder latched on to Arshavin's floating left-footed cross to flick the ball past Casillas into the bottom left corner.

In a freeflowing first half Real, nine-time European champions, pulled ahead for the second time in the 31st minute.

Van der Vaart pounced on a loose ball only to see his shot from the edge of the area be partially blocked but unfortunately for Zenit the ball fell at the feet of Ruud van Nistelrooy, whose left-footed strike flew past Malafeev.

A flurry of activity at either end in the run-up to the break failed to change the scoreline.

Van der Vaart made way for Javi Garcia on the hour, that change followed a frantic spell of attack from Zenit featuring shots from Hubocan and Radek Sirl.

Advocaat, who celebrated his 61st birthday on Saturday at a private party with Russia Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who was born in Saint Petersburg, then made two changes.

Hubocan came off for Alejandro Domniguez and Fatih Tekke was introduced for Pavel Pogrebnyak.

Arshavin, a target for Premier league side Tottenham over the summer, had a shot blocked in the 76th minute.

Then three minutes later the player who burst onto the international stage at Euro 2008 had Casillas beaten only for his close range angled shot to hit the far post.

Robben made way for former Feyenoord left wing Royston Drenthe with eight minutes on the clock with the closing stages dominated by the Russians.

Danny should have got the elusive equaliser in stoppage time but his shot from in front of goal went the wrong side of the crossbar.

The result in Saint Petersburg left Real Madrid sitting atop the table on six points ahead of Group H's later game between Juventus and Borisov.

Tue 30 September, 2008
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