Champions League

Zenit edge Gent to maintain perfect start

2015-09-30 08:26
Champions League (logo)

Moscow - Russian champions Zenit St Petersburg maintained their perfect start in Champions League Group H with a 2-1 win over Belgian side Gent on Tuesday.

Goals by striker Artem Dzyuba and midfielder Oleg Shatov allowed Zenit to take a significant step towards qualification as they collected maximum points to top their group, three points ahead of second-placed Valencia, who beat Lyon 1-0 in the other Group H encounter.

Midfielder Thomas Matton was on target for Gent.

"We were fantastic, we deserved this win," Zenit manager Andre Villas-Boas said. "We didn't have a lot of posession but we had much more chances than Gent."

"Our strategy was to be compact and wait for chances on the counter-attack like we did in Valencia and it worked well for us.

"We took six points from two games. We have four more games to play and we have a good chance (to qualify) if we continue this way."

Zenit, cheered on by a capacity 21,000 crowd at Petrovsky stadium, started in lively fashion and in the fourth minute Ezequiel Garay forced Gent goalkeeper Matz Sels into a remarkable diving save with a well-struck free kick from 23 metres.

In the 18th minute the home team wasted an even better chance when Dzyuba failed to convert Igor Smolnikov's cross from the right, sending the ball wide from seven metres.

But in the 35th minute, Zenit broke the deadlock when Hulk set up Dzyuba and the Russian international headed home from the edge of the six-yard box.

After the interval, the visitors stepped up a gear and in the 56th minute skipper Sven Kums found the unmarked Matton in the area and he kept his cool to fire into the corner from close range.

In the 67th minute Hulk, surrounded by five Gent defenders, slipped a pass into the area to Shatov, who restored Zenit's lead, lobbing the ball over the helpless Sels after beating the offside trap.

Gent poured forward in search of an equaliser but Zenit, who have won all five of their previous home meetings with Belgian clubs in European competition, held firm.

"I didn't expect we would be so good in posession, creating some chances, but maybe not enough," Gent head coach Hein Vanhaezebrouck said.

"Unfortunately we have not reacted well enough on Zenit's counters. We need to be more professional and act smarter before the situation becomes too dangerous.

"There's something we need to learn and we're going to improve on it. Hopefully it will gain us some more points in the upcoming games."

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