Late goal gives Benfica 1-0 triumph over Zenit

Lisbon, Feb 17 (IANS) Portuguese football club Benfica needed a late goal from Oliveira Jonas to pull off a 1-0 victory over Zenit St. Petersburg in the first leg of a Champions League knockout stage clash.

The first half was a quiet affair here on Tuesday, with hosts Benfica dominant against the Russian side, reports Efe.

The hosts had only two chances in the first half. Luis Pizzi missed the target in the 18th minute, while Jonas’ long shot 10 minutes later sailed just outside the post.

Zenit’s sole threat came in the 35th minute, when Hulk’s free kick created some nervous moments for Benfica keeper Julio Cesar.

The visitors were livelier in the opening minutes of the second half and Cesar was hard pressed to stop Axel Witsel.

But the Russian side quickly retreated into their defensive shell, inviting Benfica to press more insistently for a goal.

Nicolas Gaitan had a golden opportunity in the 56th minute, yet failed to beat Zenit keeper Lodygin at close range.

Jonas’ winner came in injury time, two minutes after Zenit went down to 10 men with the expulsion of Domenico Criscito for a second yellow card of the night.

Criscito is suspended for the second leg, as are teammate Javi Garcia and two Benfica players, Vieira Jardel and Gomes Andre Almeida.

All four started the match in Lisbon just one yellow card short of a suspension.

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