AZ Alkmaar forward Ari endured a mixed evening as the Dutch club got their UEFA Cup Group A campaign off to a positive start by drawing 1-1 at FC Zenit St. Petersburg.
The Brazilian opened the scoring with the first goal of this season’s group stage after 20 minutes, but saw red 19 minutes later to hand Zenit the impetus. The Russian challengers equalised just before half-time thanks to an Anatoliy Tymoschuk penalty but were unable to find a winning goal despite dominating the second half. AZ are not in action on Matchday 2, when Zenit travel to Greece to face Larissa FC.
The Eredivisie side started the brighter and twice went close to breaking the deadlock through Kemy Agustien and Moussa Dembélé before the early pressure paid off. Ari found space in the penalty area and with coolness defying his 21 years directed a shot into the top right-hand corner of Kamil Čontofalský's goal. Having been in such command, it was a surprise to see AZ press the self-destruct button seven minutes before half-time.
First Ari was shown a red card in the 39th minute for serious foul play and four minutes later AZ defender Kew Jaliens brought down Russia striker Andrei Arshavin in the area. Ukrainian international Tymoschuk stepped up and struck his spot-kick low into the left-hand corner to make it 1-1.
Unsurprisingly, Dick Advocaat's Zenit side took the initiative after the break and piled on the pressure. Their best opening came in the 67th minute when Arshavin picked out Alejandro Dominguez but he could only direct his header over the bar from close range. AZ almost stole the points late in added time but Dembélé saw his close-range header parried by Čontofalský.