Benfica beat Zenit to advance to Champions League quarters

Moscow, March 10 (IANS) Benfica beat Zenit St. Petersburg 2-1 in the second leg match to win their Champions League knockout stage tie 3-1 on aggregate and claim a berth in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

The Portuguese side made the trip to St. Petersburg without injured first-team goalkeeper Julio Cesar and three starting defenders, reports Efe.

With his team down 0-1 after the first leg in Lisbon, Zenit coach Andre Villas-Boas fielded an offensive-minded squad in hopes of overcoming the deficit and taking the Russian club to the Champions final eight for the first time.

Both teams started the match cautiously on Wednesday and Zenit’s reluctance to commit men forward allowed the depleted Benfica defence to play confidently.

Benfica’s best opportunity came in the 20th minute, when newcomer Renato Sanches grazed the outside of the right post with a shot from a distance.

Zenit were more aggressive in the second half and Brazilian Hulk woke up in time to give his team a chance, scoring in the 69th minute to make it 1-0 on the night.

Benfica came roaring back and would have pulled ahead again just two minutes later but for Zenit keeper Yuri Lodygin’s spectacular stop.

With Zenit going full steam for a second goal, Benfica seemed content to force the contest into overtime. But Raul Jimenez had other ideas.

The Mexican unleashed a magnificent volley from outside the area. Lodygin made the initial save, but an unmarked Nicolas Gaitan tapped the loose ball into the net in the 85th minute to make it 1-1.

Late substitute Talisca brought the score to 2-1 for Benfica with a goal in the final seconds of stoppage time.

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