Sunday, November 18, 2018

Zenit 1 RB Leipzig 1 (2-3 agg): European debutants reach last eight

SoccerNews in UEFA Europa League 15 Mar 2018

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RB Leipzig secured a 1-1 draw away to Zenit to progress to the quarter-finals of the Europa League with a 3-2 aggregate win as an impressive first foray into UEFA competition continued on Thursday.

A surprise second-place finish in the Bundesliga last season saw Leipzig qualify for the Champions League for the first time.

And while they were unable to get out of a group that contained Monaco, Porto and Besiktas, the German side could at least console themselves with a spot in Europe’s second-tier competition.

Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side made their presence felt by ousting Serie A title-contenders Napoli in the round of 32 and they did so again across two legs against Russian Premier League club Zenit, conquerors of Celtic at the previous stage.

After a 2-1 victory in the first leg at Red Bull Arena, Jean-Kevin Augustin’s strike saw the visitors take control of the return fixture.

Sebastian Driussi’s equaliser in first-half injury time was not enough for Roberto Mancini’s Zenit to mount a comeback after the break.

And while Timo Werner missed a late opportunity to settle it from the penalty spot, Leipzig were nevertheless able to progress with a degree of comfort.

After losing key player Aleksandr Kokorin to an early injury, a lacklustre Zenit fell behind in the 22nd minute, when Werner was allowed to cut in from the left. 

The Germany striker beat two defenders before slipping in Augustin, who did well to turn and slide his low finish past goalkeeper Andrey Lunev.

The hosts grew into the contest and threatened to equalise through eye-catching attempts from Anton Zabolotny and Emiliano Rigoni, but it was Driussi who made the breakthrough late in the opening half, jumping at the back post to volley home Domenico Criscito’s well-judged cross.

Zabolotny had the ball in the back of the net in the 68th minute, but was rightly flagged offside and Werner saw a poor effort from the spot saved after he was fouled by Miha Mevlja inside the area with six minutes to go.

Zenit went for broke in the closing stages and were almost hit on the counter-attack as Werner raced away to square for Bruma, who was denied by a fine save from Lunev in the last action of the match.

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