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Gent edge past Zenit and into knockout stage

Gent 2-1 Zenit
Belgium's 15-year absence from the UEFA Champions League's last 16 ended after a rousing victory for Hein Vanhaezebrouck's side.

Highlights: Gent 2-1 Zenit
Highlights: Gent 2-1 Zenit

Gent have ended Belgium's 15-year absence from the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League after a rousing victory over runaway Group H winners Zenit.

The hosts were given a standing ovation as they went into half-time leading through Laurent Depoitre's fine header – reward for a vibrant performance. Artem Dzyuba levelled but with Lyon beating Valencia, Gent's rivals for second, it mattered not. Danijel Milicevic's clincher started the celebrations in earnest 12 minutes from time.

Hein Vanhaezebrouck had spoken pre-match about his players' confidence, and that was evident in the early stages as Gent took the game to Zenit. Surprise starter Moses Simon was at the fore and it was one of his threatening runs down the left that prompted the opener.

The 20-year-old cleverly delayed his cross, drawing the block then whipping in a ball that Depoitre, opting for precision over power, majestically guided into the far corner. A fine time to end his ten-match goal drought, though the uncertainty returned soon after when Yuri Lodygin prevailed in a one-on-one.

Gent coach Hein Vanhaezebrouck
Gent coach Hein Vanhaezebrouck©Getty Images

Zenit, in their last outing until February, looked like they were already on holiday – perhaps they wished they were. Danny instigated a revival of sorts but as news filtered through that Valencia were behind, the Gent fans cheered and Nana Asare almost gave them more to celebrate; Lodygin intervened at point-blank range.

Zenit were much improved in the second period and Dzyuba's excellent campaign continued as he stabbed in his sixth of the campaign – only Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski have scored more. Yet this was Gent's night and Milicevic made sure with an emphatic strike after more good work from Simon.

Key player: Moses Simon

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