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Mixed fortunes for Hulk in Zenit-Porto draw

FC Zenit 1-1 FC Porto
Hulk equalised for Zenit but then had a penalty saved by former team-mate Helton during a draw that leaves Group G finely poised.

Mixed fortunes for Hulk in Zenit-Porto draw
Mixed fortunes for Hulk in Zenit-Porto draw ©UEFA.com

FC Zenit and FC Porto remain second and third respectively in UEFA Champions League Group G after playing out an entertaining 1-1 draw.

The visitors drew first blood, taking a deserved 23rd-minute lead thanks to a well-directed header by Lucho González. Zenit were struggling to find any rhythm, but got back into the match before the half-hour mark when Hulk seized on a defensive mix-up. The former Porto favourite had a chance to put Zenit in front early in the second period, but his low penalty was easily saved by Helton.

It was the Portuguese side, defeated 1-0 in the reverse fixture a fortnight ago, who got off to the more assured start. They looked comfortable in possession and Danilo's left-footed drive on seven minutes almost beat Yuri Lodygin. The right-back was having quite an impact and it was his measured cross that allowed the Dragons to move ahead midway through the half. Lucho supplied the finish with an excellent header that crept inside Lodygin's left-hand post.

Luciano Spalletti's team were having problems establishing any fluidity in attack and their cause was not helped when Danny, the Russian Premier League's top scorer, was forced off with a muscle strain. However, they got a slice of luck on 28 minutes. Roman Shirokov's speculative pass caused confusion in the Porto defence and Hulk reacted quickest, nipping in to round Helton and slot the ball into the empty net.

Zenit improved markedly in the second half and were given the perfect opportunity to wrest the initiative on 52 minutes after the sliding Nicolás Otamendi blocked Viktor Fayzulin's cross with a raised hand. Hulk stepped up to take the spot kick, yet Helton guessed correctly, diving to his right and easily fielding the weak shot.

With just over 20 minutes to go, Andrey Arshavin replaced Shirokov and the former Russia captain made an immediate impression, rousing the crowd with a couple of excellent pieces of skill. The playmaker could have given his side the advantage with 17 minutes remaining, but his low left-foot effort was saved by Helton after he had been put through by Oleg Shatov.

Zenit, who host section leaders Club Atlético de Madrid on matchday five, pushed for a winner with time running out. Full-back Cristian Ansaldi almost provided it, yet his strike went narrowly the wrong side of the upright.

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