Zenit battle to priceless draw
A rearguard effort from Zenit St Petersburg ensured they got the goalless draw at Porto they needed to secure second place in Group G
Last Updated: 06/12/11 10:34pm
A rearguard effort from Zenit St Petersburg ensured they got the goalless draw away at Porto they needed to secure second place in Group G at the expense of their Portuguese opponents.
It was an agonisingly frustrating night for Porto though, who knew that with leaders Apoel losing to Shakhtar Donetsk a win would have sent them through as group winners.
However, their failure to find a way past Zenit 'keeper Vyacheslav Malafeev means they drop into the Europa League - a competition they won last season - with Apoel and Zenit going through to the UEFA Champions League knockout stages for the first time.
Luciano Spalletti's Russian side are currently on their winter break, and had spent the last week preparing for this decisive encounter on a training camp in the Algarve.
Top of the Russian league, and unbeaten in 14 matches in all competitions, they were always likely to provide stern opposition for their hosts, who lie second in their domestic league behind Benfica.
Djalma Campos almost set the home side on their way to a flying start in the sixth minute when his 18-yard strike was parried by Malafeev before Francisco Fernando tested the goalkeeper again minutes later when his header was coolly saved.
Malafeev denied Porto again when he tipped James Rodriguez's 20-yard strike round the post in the 14th minute.
The hosts continued to pepper the visitors' goal as the half wore on, Roque Maicon the next to try his luck from 25 yards but it went wide of the goal, before striker Hulk forced another save from the rock-solid Malafeev from a long-range free-kick.
Hulk was again denied by Malafeev with three minutes remaining in the first half before Zenit finally tested the home side's defence with two Danko Lazovic corners, both cleared to safety.
After the break, Porto began to look desperate as Hulk missed a close-range attempt before Rodriguez fired a shot past the right-hand post.
Porto's Alvaro Pereira and Campos then both missed chances as the the clock ticked down before Zenit defender Aleksandr Aniukov blasted a chance over the bar with around 20 minutes left on the clock.
Rodriguez went close for the home side in the 79th minute when his strike forced Malafeev to punch clear as the Zenit defence continued to hold firm.
Hulk then missed two more chances, firing wide from 25 yards before he blasting over with five minutes remaining as Porto's hopes of qualifying finally ended.
|FC Porto||Team Statistics||Zenit St Petersburg|
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|8||Shots on Target||0|
|9||Shots off Target||1|
|58.9||1st Half Poss.||41.1|
|65.4||2nd Half Poss.||34.6|