Champions League

Zenit down Benfica

2012-02-15 22:03
Benfica's Nicolas Gaitan, right, fights for the ball with Zenit's Roman Shirokov (AP)
St Petersburg - Roman Shirokov scored his second goal of the game in the 89th minute as Zenit St Petersburg beat Benfica 3-2 in the first leg of their round-of-16 matchup in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Maxi Pereira put Benfica ahead in the 20th, tapping the ball in after second-choice goalkeeper Yuri Zhevnov spilled Oscar Cardozo's free kick, but Shirokov equalized seven minutes later.

Substitute Sergei Semak made it 2-1 with a backheel in the 71st.

Cardozo levelled for the visitors in the 87th after Zhevnov again failed to hold a shot, and the game appeared headed for a 2-2 draw until a defensive blunder by Pereira gifted Shirokov his second goal - and his fifth in seven Champions League games - from short range.

Zenit, making its debut in the knockout phase, was missing seven key players through injury and illness in its first game of the year. The Russian champions haven't lost at home in European competition since 2008.

The Portuguese club was previously unbeaten in the tournament and came through after finishing top of Group C, which included Manchester United.

After a scrappy start in freezing conditions at Petrovsky Stadium, the game kicked into life after Pereira's opener.

Aleksandr Kerzhakov came close with a volley at the back post and Shirokov fired over the bar in a flurry of action before the equaliser.

The Portuguese team struggled to keep Zenit out and started to threaten again only after playmaker Pablo Aimar replaced the injured Rodrigo on the half-hour mark.

Benfica, unbeaten this season in the Portuguese league, was the more stylish team in the second half as Aimar and Nicolas Gaitan tormented the home team's defence with slick ball skills.

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Fixtures
30 September 2014
CSKA Moscow v FC Bayern München, Arena Khimki 18:00
Shakhtar Donetsk v FC Porto, Arena Lviv 20:45
BATE Borisov v Athletic Club, Borisov Arena 20:45
Sporting Lisbon v Chelsea, Estadio José Alvalade 20:45
Manchester City v Roma, Etihad Stadium 20:45
APOEL Nicosia v Ajax, GSP Stadium 20:45
Paris Saint Germain v Barcelona, Parc des Princes 20:45
FC Schalke 04 v NK Maribor, VELTINS-Arena 20:45
01 October 2014
Zenit St Petersburg v Monaco, Petrovski Stadium 18:00
Bayer 04 Leverkusen v Benfica, BayArena 20:45
RSC Anderlecht v Borussia Dortmund, Constant Vanden Stock 20:45
Arsenal v Galatasaray, Emirates Stadium 20:45
Ludogorets Razgrad v Real Madrid, Ludogorets Arena 20:45
FC Basel v Liverpool, St Jakob-Park 20:45
Malmö FF v Olympiakos, Swedbank Stadion 20:45
Atlético de Madrid v Juventus, Vicente Calderón 20:45
21 October 2014
CSKA Moscow v Manchester City, Arena Khimki 18:00
BATE Borisov v Shakhtar Donetsk, Borisov Arena 20:45
Barcelona v Ajax, Camp Nou 20:45
FC Porto v Athletic Club, Estadio do Dragao 20:45
APOEL Nicosia v Paris Saint Germain, GSP Stadium 20:45
Roma v FC Bayern München, Olimpico 20:45
Chelsea v NK Maribor, Stamford Bridge 20:45
FC Schalke 04 v Sporting Lisbon, VELTINS-Arena 20:45
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