UEFA Cup holders FC Zenit St. Petersburg showed no signs of ring-rustiness in their first fixture of 2009, winning the home leg of the Round of 32 encounter with VfB Stuttgart despite not having played a competitive game since 10 December.
One former and one future Bundesliga player helped the Russian team defeat the German visitors. Former Hannover 96 player Szabolcs Huszti gave Zenit the lead after just two minutes before Mario Gómez equalised in the 15th minute. However, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, who has agreed to join FC Bayern München in the summer, made it 2-1 three minutes into first-half added time.
Both sides had to deal with a difficult pitch and temperatures of -10C in Russia, where the new season does not start until next month. Less than two minutes into the match, however, Stuttgart goalkeeper Jens Lehmann could only parry Igor Semshov's powerful volley and the ball went directly to Huszti, who blasted home left-footed from five metres out.
Zenit had the better of the play in midfield but Stuttgart's equaliser after a quarter of an hour arrived when they lost the ball in that area. Gómez picked up possession after a mistake by Roman Shirokov, dribbled down the right, cut in and struck a left-foot shot from the edge of the box that flew inside the near post. The game appeared destined for a 1-1 scoreline at the break, only for Zenit to regain the initiative at the death. Aleksandr Anyukov cut the ball back for Tymoshchuk, who unleashed a vicious shot from just outside the area into the top right-hand corner.
Both clubs had good chances early in the second half, and Pavel Pogrebnyak netted for Zenit in the 52nd minute yet was ruled offside. The hosts remained the team more likely for much of the second half and Pogrebnyak sent another effort wide after 76 minutes. Gómez had one final opportunity to restore parity but Zenit keeper Vyacheslav Malafeev denied the German international. Tymoshchuk, the match-winner, was shown a yellow card in stoppage time and will miss the return leg on 26 February.
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