FC Unirea Urziceni shrugged off the 36th-minute dismissal of Răzvan Pădureţu to earn a valuable goalless draw in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League third qualifying round tie against FC Zenit St. Petersburg.
Neither side appeared willing to take chances during an opening period bereft of clear goalscoring opportunities, while not even Pădureţu's departure sparked Zenit into action until after the break. They went close to breaking the deadlock on several occasions but Unirea stood firm to stay on level terms ahead of Wednesday's second leg in Russia.
Unirea started, though, with loftier ambitions which were nearly realised on the half hour, Marius Bilaşco's shot from 14 metres narrowly failing to beat Vyacheslav Malafeev. Roni Levy's side, however, were facing an uphill task six minutes later when Pădureţu was given his marching orders after an incident involving Aleksandr Kerzhakov.
Zenit burst out of the blocks after the interval, with Kherzakov among the most zestful performers, and he was nearly rewarded two minutes after the break but his shot whistled wide. Vladimir Bystrov's 54th-minute effort was also narrowly off target but it was not until the penultimate minute that Luciano Spalletti's men had their most inviting opportunity. Alessandro Rosina's cross begged to be finished but Giedrius Arlauskis somehow kept out Maksim Kanunnikov's header and Unirea lived to fight another day.