Zenit’s Champions League campaign kicks off with blunder

Zenit St. Petersburg suffered an unexpected defeat in their first game in the UEFA Champions League group stage, going down to APOEL 2-1 in Cyprus.

­The hosts started very actively, forcing Zenit to pull back to their goals. But the Russian champions, who fielded an extra defender for the match, experienced few problems in holding off APOEL’s attack.

The Cypriots created just one big chance in the opening 45 minutes, with visiting keeper Vyacheslav Malafeev saving his team after a rendezvous with Ailton.

And Zenit could’ve well gone into the halftime break with a one goal lead. Danny escaped the home team’s defense and found Roman Shirokov on the edge of the box, but his shot from a good position lacked accuracy.

APOEL began the second half just like the first one, but got carried away by their own attacking play.

Danny was once again on the assist on 63rd minute, with Konstantin Zyrianov beating netminder Dionisios Chiotis in the near corner, 0-1.

Aleksandr Kerzhakov missed an opportunity to double the Russian lead a few minutes later, and Zenit were punished for their wistfulness.

APOEL scored twice in the space of just two minutes to find themselves 2-1 up after efforts from Gustavo Manduca and Ailton.

The St. Petersburg side had 15 minutes to equalize, and the task became even harder when Bruno Alves was sent off for a second yellow in the 76th minute.   

But the visitors still spent the remainder of the match attacking. They came very close to scoring, but an effort from Viktor Faizulin ended up hitting the post.

APOEL collected a 2-1 win and now share the Group G lead with FC Porto, which beat Shakhat Donetsk.

There was also plenty of drama in the encounter at Estadio do Dragao, which included a missed penalty from Porto’s Hulk and a first-half red card for Shakhtar defender Yaroslav Rakitskiy.

The Ukrainians team took the lead through Luiz Adriano, but Porto answered with two efforts from Hulk and Kleber to snatch all three home points.

UEFA Champions League’s Matchday 1 scores:

Group E

Chelsea 2-0 Leverkusen
Genk 0-0 Valencia    

Group F

Olympiacos 0-1 Marseille
Dortmund 1-1 Arsenal    

Group G

Porto 2-1 Shakhtar     
APOEL 2-1 Zenit

Group H

Barcelona 2-2 Milan
Plzen 1-1 BATE

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