Champions League

Zenit send Benfica packing

2014-11-26 22:03
Andre Villas-Boas (AFP)

St. Petersburg - A late goal by Portuguese international winger Danny gave Russian league leaders Zenit St Petersburg a crucial 1-0 win against Benfica in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Danny, formerly of Sporting Lisbon, struck 11 minutes from the end of a hard-fought encounter to keep the Russian side in the running to qualify for the last 16 for the second season in succession and end Benfica's hopes of advancing from Group C.

Regardless of the outcome of Wednesday's other Group C game between Bayer Leverkusen and Monaco in Germany, Zenit know that a win in Monaco in their final game next month will take them through to the knock-out stage.

The best Benfica can now aim for, though, is third place and qualification for the Europa League, in which they have reached the final in each of the last two seasons.

But even that will be a forlorn hope if Monaco win against Leverkusen.

In a game of few chances, the Portuguese champions had the best opening of the first half when Nicolas Gaitan concluded a great run down the left by crossing to the back post for Eduardo Salvio, whose shot was well saved by Yuri Lodygin.

Zenit created little of note and lost both Nicolas Lombaerts and Javi Garcia to injury but Andre Villas-Boas's side never gave up and were rewarded with the winning goal in the 79th minute.

Brazilian forward Hulk, who like his coach Villas-Boas is formerly of Porto, delivered a cross from the right to the near post for his captain Danny, who followed up a superb run with a fine volleyed finish past Julio Cesar.

A disappointing night for Benfica ended in miserable fashion as captain Luisao was sent off in stoppage time after being shown a second yellow card.

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