• Hulk scores the first goal of the 2014/15 UEFA Champions League season
• Goalkeeper Artur is sent off on 18 minutes after bringing down Danny
• Former Benfica midfielder Axel Witsel quickly doubles Zenit's lead
• Benfica's 51-match unbeaten home run in all competitions ends
• Next games: Leverkusen v Benfica, Zenit v Monaco (1 October)
Hulk and former SL Benfica favourite Axel Witsel scored the goals in a 2-0 Group C win as FC Zenit brought the Eagles' 51-match unbeaten home record to a spectacular end.
Zenit were on their way to an 11th straight victory this season from the moment Hulk delicately lifted them into a fifth-minute lead, the first goal of this UEFA Champions League campaign. It was the start of a forgettable opening half for Benfica. Goalkeeper Artur was dismissed on 18 minutes after bringing down Danny and two set pieces later it was 2-0, Witsel heading in a Danny corner.
Benfica's nightmare was the stuff of dreams for ex-FC Porto boss André Villas-Boas, whose Zenit side had brimmed with attacking intent from the off. Hulk had served notice of his threat by supplying a teasing cross which Oleg Shatov was centimetres away from connecting with, and the Brazil forward clipped in a delightful finish when Shatov returned the compliment.
Hulk sensed the kill, smashing an outrageous free-kick from near the centre circle which Artur beat away. Benfica posed a sporadic threat from set pieces, though, and Eduardo Salvio called Yuri Lodygin into action from open play. It merely brought brief respite, as Zenit looked capable of getting in behind the Benfica defence at will. Another precise Shatov pass left Danny one-on-one with Artur and the goalkeeper could only bring him down.
André Villas-Boas enjoyed a dream start
Paulo Lopes, sent on for his UEFA Champions League bow at the age of 36, conceded within seconds as Witsel's powerful near-post header from a Danny corner had crossed the line before he could claw it away. The Belgian international midfielder – like Ezequiel Garay and Javi García playing against his old club – did not celebrate the goal.
Just after the hour Lopes got the faintest of touches to divert a Hulk shot from an acute angle onto the post after more sterling Shatov service. Benfica battled gamely despite their numerical disadvantage and after a slip by Nicolas Lombaerts, Lima's effort almost squirmed under Lodygin. At the other end Lopes tipped over another crunching Hulk strike and José Rondon slid a shot wide. It can only get better for Benfica.