Two goals from the impressive Andrei Archavin put FC Zenit St. Peterburg on the verge of a place in the group stage of the UEFA Cup after an emphatic first round first-leg victory over FK Crvena Zvezda at the Petrovsky stadium.
Inspired by their little No10, Zenit jumped into a commanding 3-0 lead by half-time to leave Crvena Zvezda coach Ljupo Petrovic contemplating an early exit from the UEFA Cup to follow the Serbo-Montenegrin side's elimination from the third-qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League against PSV Eindhoven.
Archavin's opposite number in the Crvena Zvezda lineup, Radovan Krivokapic, looked his equal in the opening 20 minutes, but Zenit's Czech coach, Vlastimil Petrzela, had prepared well and Vladislav Radimov and Olexandr Horshkov doubled up on him every time the Crvena Zvezda playmaker received the ball. As soon as Krivokapic's markers won the ball, they quickly looked to feed Archavin who gradually imposed his will on proceedings.
Despite the home side's overwhelming superiority, the first goal was surprisingly late in coming. There were 26 minutes on the clock when Horshkov, Archavin's fellow tormentor-in-chief, ran at the Crvena Zvezda defence before laying the ball off to Archavin who side-footed it past the onrushing Crvena Zvezda goalkeeper Vladimir Dišljenkovic.
Just six minutes later the roles of maker and taker were reversed, Horshkov, increasingly influential, heading in Archavin's right-footed cross from close range. There looked to be no way back for Petrovic's youthful side against the Russian league leaders.
On the stroke of half-time, Archavin confirmed this was going to be his night. Receiving the ball from midfield player Oleg Vlasov on the edge of the penalty area, his powerful shot left Dišljenkovic helpless in the Crevna Zvezda goal.
Crvena Zvezda started the second half a lot brighter, but any chance of a revival was shattered just eight minutes after the break. A brilliant run from Archavin took him past several Crvena Zvezda defenders down the right flank, before he cut the ball in for the energetic Aleksandr Kerzhakov to tap in from close range.
Three minutes from time, with the rain by now coming down heavily, the hero of the night, Archavin, was brought off to a tremendous reception from the home crowd, the smile on his face a stark contrast to the bewildered look worn by Crvena Zvezda's players.