FC Zenit St. Petersburg continued to confound expectations as they took a significant step towards a place in the last eight of the UEFA Cup with an impressive 1-0 win against ten-man Olympique de Marseille at the Stade Vélodrome.
Andrei Arshavin scored his third goal of the competition six minutes after half-time, curling a fine shot from the edge of the penalty area beyond Fabien Barthez after a clever lay-off by Aleksandr Kerzhakov. Marseille looked set to recover in a fractious spell after the deadlock had been broken, but their hopes were all but ended when Franck Ribéry was dismissed for a second yellow card with 20 minutes left, and in the end Jean Fernandez's team were relieved not to concede further goals.
Zenit had never been in European action post-Christmas before this season but have quickly found their feet in the knockout stages. A 4-1 aggregate victory against Rosenborg BK saw them through to the last-16 and they picked up where they left off tonight. Aleksandr Anyukov carved out a fine fifth-minute chance for Radek Šírl but the Czech midfielder failed to take advantage. Kerzhakov then forced Barthez to parry but Marseille gradually gained a foothold, with Ribéry, as usual, providing momentum on the wing.
The mercurial France Under-21 international created chances for Samir Nasri and Sabri Lamouchi, but neither were converted and Zenit capitalised through Arshavin after the restart. The Russian side immediately retreated and a spate of fouls resulted in Ribéry seeing red on 70 minutes. With him went all Marseille's hope and substitute Oleg Trifonov could, and should, have doubled the advantage late on but saw his finish crash back off the crossbar before Barthez pulled off two superb saves to give the French team hope for the second leg.