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2011/12 FC Zenit St Petersburg 3-2 SL Benfica: Report

"What can I say about that day? Champions League victories are a big party." Sergei Semak

2011/12 FC Zenit St Petersburg 3-2 SL Benfica: Report
2011/12 FC Zenit St Petersburg 3-2 SL Benfica: Report ©UEFA.com

Two goals from Roman Shirokov, the second two minutes from time, helped FC Zenit St Petersburg to a stunning 3-2 victory against SL Benfica.

Benfica had struck the first blow, with an opportunist Maxi Pereira strike on 20 minutes. Shirokov's fine volley swiftly levelled matters and substitute Sergei Semak rounded off a fine move midway through the second half to turn the contest in Zenit's favour. Óscar Cardozo looked to have earned Benfica a valuable draw late on, but within 60 seconds Shirokov had capitalised on defensive uncertainty to win it for Zenit.

In freezing temperatures the match took time to warm up, but by the end it had reached boiling point. The visitors found their feet first. Cardozo's 25-metre free-kick bounced awkwardly in front of Yuri Zhevnov and the Zenit goalkeeper could only palm the shot straight back out; Pereira reacted quickest to turn in the loose ball.

That forced the Russian champions into action and they poured forward in search of an equaliser. Their reward was rapid as Tomáš Hubočan expertly picked out Shirokov on the penalty spot. The 30-year-old let the ball come across his body before directing an excellent volley into the bottom corner.

The second period was a more even affair, with neither side at their fluent best and clear chances few and far between. When one was created, 19 minutes from time, it was accepted greedily as Aleksandr Kerzhakov did excellently to keep the ball in play with a deft back-heel, which found the unmarked Vladimir Bystrov in the penalty area. The substitute picked out Semak and, with an astute back-heel of his own, the midfielder fired in.

Now it was Benfica's turn to muster a response and they duly found one with three minutes left. Nicolás Gaitán found himself with time and space on the penalty spot and, though Zhevnov blocked his shot, again the goalkeeper failed to hold on and Cardozo was the grateful recipient.

Visiting celebrations were fleeting, however, as Pereira unwisely attempted to control Aleksandr Anyukov's low cross. His heavy touch allowed Shirokov to steal in and, despite Artur's best efforts, the midfielder squeezed his shot into the net to give Zenit a slender victory.