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Danny delights Zenit and knocks out Benfica

FC Zenit 1-0 SL Benfica
Danny's late goal consigned Benfica to a third successive group stage exit and ensured Zenit's hopes of progress go to the final day.

2014 highlights: Danny's winner for Zenit against Benfica

Zenit control first half but without breaking through
Benfica go close three times in first five minutes of second period
Danny makes decisive late breakthrough for Zenit (79)
Benfica out; Zenit take campaign to matchday six
Next games: Monaco v Zenit, Benfica v Leverkusen (9 December)

FC Zenit took a giant stride towards the UEFA Champions League round of 16 as Danny's late goal proved enough to see off SL Benfica in a tight Group C fixture.

Clear chances were few and far between but, just when it looked like ending in stalemate, Hulk set up Danny for an expert finish with 11 minutes remaining. The result means Zenit's campaign will go to the wire, while Benfica cannot now finish in the top two.

With these teams level on four points, a win would have moved either into a strong position ahead of the final round of matches and it was Zenit who started the stronger. Hulk's right-wing free-kick was parried by Júlio César and both Axel Witsel and José Rondón had shots blocked in the resulting scramble, but Benfica survived.

That was in the sixth minute; the next clear opening did not arrive until seven minutes before half-time. This time is was Zenit who escaped as a great run and cross from Nicolás Gaitán found Eduardo Salvio inside the area but Yuri Lodygin was quickly out to block at the forward's feet.

There were three more let-offs for the home goal in quick succession early in the second period. First Gaitán missed the target after shrugging off Witsel, before Luisão found himself with time and space in the box only to pull his effort across the face of goal; seconds later, Jardel failed to get enough purchase on his header.

Gaitán then delivered an inviting centre that failed to find reward as both sides chased the vital breakthrough. Just when it appeared that one would never come, Hulk unlocked the Benfica defence, picking up possession at the corner of the area and dinking in a cross for skipper Danny to smash past César on the half-volley.

With Benfica unable to apply any real pressure on the home defence, their misery was complete when Luisão collected his second yellow card in added time. While the visitors were left to contemplate a group stage exit for the third season running, Zenit's hopes of making the last 16 for the third time in four years remain alive.