Austria Wien denied by ten-man Zenit
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
FC Zenit 0-0 FK Austria Wien
Both sides are still seeking a first Group G win after a stalemate in which Zenit had midfielder Axel Witsel sent off a minute before half-time.
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Ten-man FC Zenit and FK Austria Wien gained their first points in UEFA Champions League Group G as they played out a goalless draw in St Petersburg.
Despite the dismissal of Axel Witsel for a challenge on Florian Mader a minute before the break, the home side continued to dominate possession for long periods. Austria Wien, excellently marshalled throughout by captain and defender Manuel Ortlechner, grew in confidence as the second half wore on but created little of note themselves.
Buoyed by a run of five successive wins on the domestic front, Luciano Spalletti's Zenit looked to make a statement from the off. They were controlling both territory and the ball, and went close to opening the scoring in the 12th minute when Hulk's shot from outside the penalty area hit a post.
Aleksandr Kerzhakov became the all-time leading scorer in the Russian top flight at the weekend when he registered his 208th goal in a 4-2 defeat of FC Spartak Moskva, and the forward had an opportunity to further enhance his credentials before the interval. However, having been put through down the left by Hulk, the 30-year-old miscued his strike with just Heinz Lindner to beat.
Nenad Bjelica's team, beaten in the Austrian Cup a week ago by third-tier opposition, had to wait until the 41st minute for their first real moment of danger, as Philipp Hosiner's right-footed drive skimmed the upright. There was one more twist to what was an action-packed first half when, a minute before the whistle, Witsel was shown a straight red card for a tackle on Mader.
The visitors took time to make their numerical advantage count in the second period, though Hosiner threatened again soon after the hour when his effort was blocked by Nicolas Lombaerts. As the Violets became more adventurous, gaps appeared in their defence, openings which Zenit were more than happy to try to exploit. Danny was proving a constant menace down the left flank, yet too often the final ball let the Premier-Liga leaders down.
Austria Wien continued to defend stoically, with Ortlechner putting in a man-of-the-match performance, and in the end the debutants were fully deserving of their first UEFA Champions League point.