Juve stand firm to snuff out Zenit
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
FC Zenit St. Petersburg 0-0 Juventus
Zenit will defend the UEFA Cup in the new year after a goalless home draw against the already-qualified Bianconeri ended their Group H hopes.
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FC Zenit St. Petersburg are out of contention to advance from UEFA Champions League Group H after a goalless home draw against already-qualified Juventus.
Dick Advocaat's side dominated possession for long periods yet it was their resolute visitors, already through, who passed up the best opportunities, hitting the woodwork twice in the first half, leaving Zenit winless from their three matches in St Petersburg and Russia without a group-stage home victory since 17 October 2006. Real Madrid CF's success at FC BATE Borisov later on Tuesday confirmed that Zenit will finish third, giving them a chance to retain the UEFA Cup as they enter the Round of 32 next spring.
Zenit made just one change from the team which won at BATE on Matchday 4, Nicolas Lombaerts drafted in for his UEFA Champions League debut in place of the suspended Sébastien Puygrenier, and it was the Belgian defender's foul which led to the first opening on two minutes. Vincenzo Iaquinta lured the Zenit No6 into a challenge on the touchline and from Mauro Camoranesi's ensuing free-kick, Iaquinta headed over from six metres. The Bianconeri could have forged ahead seven minutes later. Making only his third appearance since coming back from an nine-month injury lay-off, Lombaerts again felled Iaquinta in an almost identical position to the first incident. And from another Camoranesi set-piece, Olof Mellberg rose highest to head against the outside of the far post.
Speculative long-range efforts aside, Zenit were creating little and it was the woodwork which came to their rescue once more midway through the half when Pavel Nedvěd played in Cristian Molinaro, whose cut-back was fired against the post by Iaquinta. Zenit continued to play some neat football but with Juve defending in packs, clear sights of the Serie A team's goal were scarce. They did, however, have the ball in net six minutes before half-time, only for the assistant referee's raised flag to curtail Ivica Križanac's celebrations.
Possession at the break was 64-36 in Zenit's favour, a sign of how pressing their need for a goal was, yet they were nearly behind within seconds of the restart following a swift Juventus break. Up from right-back, Zdeněk Grygera crossed for Alessandro Del Piero, whose volley was beaten out by Vyacheslav Malafeev. At the other end, Danny's bending shot forced Alex Manninger to tip around the post. The Juve captain then tested Malafeev twice before guiding Iaquinta's pull-back wide with the goal at his mercy.
Led by Danny, Zenit continued to probe for the goal which would ignite their Group H campaign, and it was the Portuguese playmaker who thought he had it only to be denied by a last-ditch tackle from Claudio Marchisio. Pogrebnyak then fired a long-range shot against the base of Manninger's right-hand post as Zenit went for broke, while Danny's toe-poke drifted agonisingly wide with six minutes left.