Zenit took advantage of sloppy defending to beat Benfica 3-1 and move into a strong position in Champions League Group G, with four points from their opening two games.
Sergei Semak’s side built on their 1-1 draw at Lyon in the opening round with a confident performance at Saint Petersburg Stadium, making it five wins in their last six home matches in Europe’s top competition.
Benfica arrived with a Champions League away record of six defeats from their last seven trips and did themselves no favours when ponderous defending allowed Artem Dzyuba to steal in and score.
With their noses in front, the Russian champions shut up shop and patiently awaited a second opening, which arrived 20 minutes from time when Ruben Dias put through his own net.
Benfica’s hopes of a comeback that never looked likely ended 12 minutes from time when Sardar Azmoun rolled in his second goal of this season’s competition, with Raul de Tomas’ late strike only a consolation.
F/T’ | Artem Dzyuba and the boys dominant in St. Petersburg!
— FC Zenit in English (@fczenit_en) October 2, 2019
Just as Benfica seemed to have withstood the hosts’ bright start they slipped up trying to play out from the back, Magomed Ozdoev dispossessing Lubomir Fejsa after 21 minutes and teeing up Dzyuba to confidently pick his spot before side-footing past Odisseas Vlachodimos.
Zenit dominated until half-time and Azmoun started the second period with another fast break, stinging Vlachodimos’ palms with a rasping angled drive.
Substitute Vyacheslav Karavaev had been on the pitch less than two minutes when he broke down the Zenit right and delivered a low cross that Dias, sliding back to try and clear Benfica’s lines, bundled into his own net with his hand.
The visitors continued to leave gaps and Azmoun was only too happy to exploit them, pouncing on Ozdoev’s long pass and rounding Vlachodimos before tapping in from close range.
Yordan Osorio gifted Benfica a consolation when his clearance fell to the feet of Raul, who launched a shot into the top corner of the net, but it was too little, too late for Bruno Lage’s men.
What does it mean? Benfica rock bottom
The Portuguese champions have kept seven clean sheets in all competitions this season but in Europe their defence has been poor, conceding five goals in two games to leave Benfica bottom of Group G with no points.
Industrious Driussi makes the difference
The free radical in Zenit’s midfield and a constant source of creativity, Sebastian Driussi exploited the space in front of Benfica’s defence and kept the hosts on the offensive.
Fejsa’s fumble proves costly
Benfica looked in good shape until Fejsa hesitated in possession on the edge of his own box and paid the price.
Key Opta Facts
– There has never been a draw in seven meetings between Zenit and Benfica, with the former having won four of the contests.
– Three of Benfica’s last four own goals in the Champions League have come against Russian opposition; Zenit, CSKA Moscow and Spartak Moscow.
– Zenit have scored at least once in each of their last 24 home games in European competitions (52 goals), last failing to score at home in a match against Monaco in October 2014.
– Ozdoev is the first Zenit player to assist two goals in a home match in the Champions League since Oleg Shatov did so against Lyon in October 2015.
– Dzyuba has been involved in 10 goals in 10 Champions League matches for Zenit (7 goals, 3 assists).
Benfica have three weeks without a game before they entertain Lyon in their third Group G match, while Zenit face Ural and Rostov in domestic fixtures before their Champions League trip to RB Leipzig.
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!