Zenit run hot amid sub-zero temperatures

Stadion Petrovski, St Petersburg – 15/02/2012 – Round of 16
Zenit
Zenit
Shirokov 27, 88 Semak 71
3 - 2
Benfica
  • Maxi Pereira 20
  • Óscar Cardozo 87
Benfica
End-to-end drama

"What can I say about that day? Champions League victories are a big party." Sergei Semak

2011/12

• Bafétimbi Gomis scored three goals in seven minutes as Olympique Lyonnais beat GNK Dinamo Zagreb 7-1, breaking Mike Newell's 16-year-old record for the competition's fastest hat-trick.

• FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi became the first player to top score in four successive European Cup campaigns, also equalling the single season record tally (14) set by AC Milan's José Altafini in 1962/63.

• Manchester United FC's Ryan Giggs registered for a record 16th UEFA Champions League campaign, his goal against SL Benfica also making him the oldest scorer in the competition at 37 years and 289 days.





Two goals from Roman Shirokov, the second two minutes from time, helped FC Zenit St Petersburg to a stunning 3-2 victory against SL Benfica.

Benfica had struck the first blow, with an opportunist Maxi Pereira strike on 20 minutes. Shirokov's fine volley swiftly levelled matters and substitute Sergei Semak rounded off a fine move midway through the second half to turn the contest in Zenit's favour. Óscar Cardozo looked to have earned Benfica a valuable draw late on, but within 60 seconds Shirokov had capitalised on defensive uncertainty to win it for Zenit.

In freezing temperatures the match took time to warm up, but by the end it had reached boiling point. The visitors found their feet first. Cardozo's 25-metre free-kick bounced awkwardly in front of Yuri Zhevnov and the Zenit goalkeeper could only palm the shot straight back out; Pereira reacted quickest to turn in the loose ball.

That forced the Russian champions into action and they poured forward in search of an equaliser. Their reward was rapid as Tomáš Hubočan expertly picked out Shirokov on the penalty spot. The 30-year-old let the ball come across his body before directing an excellent volley into the bottom corner.

The second period was a more even affair, with neither side at their fluent best and clear chances few and far between. When one was created, 19 minutes from time, it was accepted greedily as Aleksandr Kerzhakov did excellently to keep the ball in play with a deft back-heel, which found the unmarked Vladimir Bystrov in the penalty area. The substitute picked out Semak and, with an astute back-heel of his own, the midfielder fired in.

Now it was Benfica's turn to muster a response and they duly found one with three minutes left. Nicolás Gaitán found himself with time and space on the penalty spot and, though Zhevnov blocked his shot, again the goalkeeper failed to hold on and Cardozo was the grateful recipient.

Visiting celebrations were fleeting, however, as Pereira unwisely attempted to control Aleksandr Anyukov's low cross. His heavy touch allowed Shirokov to steal in and, despite Artur's best efforts, the midfielder squeezed his shot into the net to give Zenit a slender victory.

Star players

  • Kerzhakov

    A wily, predatory striker, Kerzhakov racked up his 100th league goal for FC Zenit St Petersburg at the tail end of 2011/12. He has enjoyed two stints with Zenit, either side of two seasons with both Sevilla FC and FC Dinamo Moskva. A regular for Russia, Kerzhakov represented his country at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, UEFA EURO 2004 and UEFA EURO 2012.

  • Bruno Alves

    Alves is a fearsome defender who has gone from strength to strength since a €22m switch from FC Porto to FC Zenit St Petersburg in 2010. He won back-to-back Russian Premier League titles in his first two years in Russia, adding to the four Portuguese Liga crowns he won with Porto. The centre-back was ever-present for Portugal at the 2010 FIFA World Cup and UEFA EURO 2012.

  • Aimar

    An elegant playmaker, Aimar's ascent to stardom started at CA River Plate in his homeland of Argentina. He was lured to Valencia CF for around €24m in 2001 and won two Liga titles, the UEFA Cup and the UEFA Super Cup – as well as playing in the 2001 UEFA Champions League final defeat by FC Bayern München. A two-year stint at Real Zaragoza was followed by his 2008 move to SL Benfica, where he won the 2009/10 Portuguese Liga.

What happened next?

• Goals late in each half from Maxi Pereira and Nélson Oliveira earned SL Benfica a 2-0 home win in the second leg, a 4-3 aggregate triumph taking them through to the quarter-finals.

• Jorge Jesus's side lost to eventual UEFA Champions League winners Chelsea FC in the last eight, however, going down 1-0 in Lisbon before a 2-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge.

• Benfica finished six points adrift of champions FC Porto in the Liga, but did end the campaign with silverware after beating Gil Vicente FC in the Portuguese League Cup final.

• FC Zenit St Petersburg also had cause for celebration as they successfully defended their Premier League title in an 18-month season as Russia switched to a winter season.

• Roman Shirokov was one of six Zenit players in Russia's squad at UEFA EURO 2012, scoring in their 4-1 win against the Czech Republic. Bruno Alves was ever-present for Portugal.

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