Zenit head coach Andre Villas-Boas was left to lament a moment of inspiration from Raul Jimenez as his side were sent crashing out of the Champions League by Benfica on Wednesday.
The second leg of the last-16 tie at the Petrovsky Stadium was seemingly heading for extra-time when Hulk’s header levelled the scores at 1-1 on aggregate.
However, Zenit were made to rue a series of missed chances as Benfica completed a late turnaround, starting in the 85th minute when Raul Jimenez tried an improbable half-volley on the spin that goalkeeper Yuri Lodygin could only parry onto the woodwork and captain Nicolas Gaitan headed in the rebound.
It left Zenit needing two goals and they were caught on the break in injury time when Talisca’s well-controlled half-volley found the bottom corner to secure a 3-1 aggregate win, but Villas-Boas felt it was Jimenez that turned the game in Benfica’s favour.
“We could have made it 2-0, unfortunately we could not do that and we ended up suffering following a moment of inspiration from Raul Jimenez,” the Portuguese, who is to leave Zenit at the end of the season, said following the game.
“We lacked the emotional control to keep the ball on the floor and play as we should have. We had some good opportunities, which makes the result a little unfair.
“Benfica had a little more possession after our goal, but we had chances.”
Midfielder Axel Witsel, a former Benfica player, felt Zenit had control of the game and deserved to go through to the quarter-finals.
“The opponent scored in the end. They were a bit lucky,” he said. “The game was in our hands and we had opportunities to score more.
“We could not do it and that’s sad. The game was in our hands, we were stronger than them.”
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