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A 1-0 win at home against AJ Auxerre has given FC Zenit St. Petersburg a lead to defend in their UEFA Champions League play-off decider at AJ Auxerre on Wednesday, and has allowed striker Aleksandr Kerzhakov to set himself a new target.
The 27-year-old's strike in the first leg not only won the game but brought his goalscoring total for the club he rejoined from FC Dinamo Moskva in January to 100. "The press and my parents don't let me forget how many goals I've scored," said the striker. "I will be happy to score goal number 101 for Zenit in the next fixture."
Born in nearby Kingisepp, Kerzhakov scored his first Zenit goal on 30 June 2001, against FC Spartak Moskva. His form at the Petrovsky Stadium eventually earned him a place in the Russian national team – for whom he has now been capped 50 times – and, in 2006, a move to Spain, where he won the UEFA Cup in his first season at Sevilla FC.
A regular first-team place was to prove elusive at Sevilla, and he returned to Russia with Dinamo in 2008, scoring 19 goals in 51 league games before electing to return to St Petersburg. Initially, things were a little strained, with just one goal in his first 16 games in all competitions, but the old magic seems to be returning.
The third-minute strike against Auxerre was his fourth in his last six games, and while he was replaced by new signing Aleksandr Bukharov on 78 minutes, his confidence is on the up. However, as he freely acknowledged, that alone will not bring European goals. "I'd like to be scoring more, but we're playing serious teams," he said.
Kerzhakov's goal aside, the Russian Premier League leaders' performance did not entirely convince their supporters, but as the scene shifts to the Abbé-Deschamps Stadium, the striker is convinced things are going to plan. "Auxerre did not surprise us," he said. "They did exactly what we were told they would do at our tactical meetings."
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