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Hulk earns Zenit valuable victory at PSV

PSV Eindhoven 0-1 FC Zenit
Brazilian international Hulk struck a second-half winner to earn the Russian league leaders a valuable victory in the Netherlands against their in-form hosts.

Zenit's Javi García competes with PSV captain Georginio Wijnaldum (right)
Zenit's Javi García competes with PSV captain Georginio Wijnaldum (right) ©AFP/Getty Images

• Second-half Hulk effort (64) earns away success for Zenit
Brazilian international notches second goal in Europe this term
Visitors triumph in first match back in action since 9 December
• 18 games without an away draw in Europe for Russian side
The second leg is next Thursday in Russia, with the last 16 draw the following day

PSV Eindhoven failed to replicate their impressive domestic form as FC Zenit seized control of their UEFA Europa League round of 32 tie against the Dutch league leaders with a 1-0 first-leg victory.

The visitors, seeking to maintain their 100% record of advancing to the last 16 since the introduction of the UEFA Cup group stage in 2004/05, claimed a valuable away success in the Netherlands via Hulk's close-range finish in the second half.

Currently in irresistible domestic form, PSV have recorded nine successive league wins since their last outing in Europe, with the likes of Memphis Depay, Georginio Wijnaldum and Jetro Willems inspiring Phillip Cocu's charges to the Eredivisie summit. They helped the home side make a strong start here too, with Zenit producing a lethargic opening in their first match since 9 December.

Indeed, Willems created the opening chance after 13 minutes as Zenit goalkeeper Yuri Lodygin produced a fingertip save to deny Nicolas Isimat-Mirin following the left-back's corner. Four minutes later, Willems failed to hit the target with a volley following a clipped ball by Andrés Guardado.

The Russian side survived the early onslaught and responded via Oleg Shatov and Hulk, with home custodian Jeroen Zoet rebuffing their efforts from distance. The second half then began in a lively fashion too, and Dutch international Depay should have at least hit the target after a cute pass from Wijnaldum released him behind the home defence; instead, he screwed his left-footed effort wide.

Moments later, a strong run by Hulk resulted in fine save by Zoet. However, the Brazilian international would not be denied a second goal in European competition this term. Sine-Belo-Golubye captain Danny found the No7 in space and Hulk broke the deadlock from close range with 64 minutes gone. PSV searched gamely for an equaliser, but André Villas-Boas's men held firm to earn a first-leg lead to take back to St Petersburg.