Zenit fail to shine in first win
Russian champions Zenit St Petersburg grabbed their first win of this season's UEFA Champions League campaign with an unconvincing 1-0 win over Belgian outfit Anderlecht.
A 72nd-minute penalty by Alexander Kerzhakov gave the Russians a barely-deserved three points and saw them climb to third in the table. Spanish debutants Malaga top the table with six points from two games, while AC Milan are on four and Anderlecht have just a point and are yet to score a goal in this season's competition. Malaga host Milan later on Wednesday.
Kerzhakov, who has had a tempestuous past few months with a poor UEFA EURO 2012 and then going on strike over the huge wages being paid to big-money signings Hulk and Axel Witsel, had the first serious effort on goal in the seventh minute, his shot flashing past the near post.
Anderlecht returned fire when a nicely worked move saw Milan Jovanovic slipped free, but his shot scraped the far post as the players battled atrocious weather conditions. Hulk then went close after winning a free-kick on the edge of the box, his whipped-in effort sliding past the far post with Anderlecht goalkeeper Silvio Proto beaten.
The second half was not of great quality and had few clear chances, Zenit substitute Vladimir Bystrov going closest in the 69th minute with a shot that went over the bar. However Lady Luck smiled on Zenit two minutes later as Jovanovic clumsily gripped Alexander Anyukov round the neck and threw him to the ground in the box. Kerzhakov made no mistake with the resulting penalty for his seventh goal of the season.
Jovanovic, who was booked for his moment of madness, almost made up for his error with seven minutes remaining, firing in a fierce volley from outside the area, but it went just over the bar.
Zenit's total lack of unity was encapsulated in two incidents within seconds of each other towards the end of the encounter as first Kerzhakov fired in a wild shot with Hulk in a better position and then the bulky Brazilian opted to go on his own in taking on two Anderlecht defenders with his strike partner free on the left.
Kerzhakov let his feelings be felt wringing his hands in frustration and shaking his head in the direction of the former Porto star. Indeed Hulk was to enrage Kerzhakov further in time added on as he produced a barnstorming run into the penalty area, but again, instead of passing to the unmarked Russian, he was dispossessed of the ball and received a volley of abuse for his selfishness.