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CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: Benfica draw first blood in battle with Zenit

Benfica scored a narrow 1-0 victory over Zenit Saint Petersburg at Estadio da Luz in the Champions League Round of 16 first leg on Tuesday night.

Rui Vitoria's Eagles required an injury-time winner to down Andre Villas-Boas' Zenit side who struggled to create any real threat throughout the 90 minutes.

Jonas, who scored the eventual winner, fired from range in the first half which had Zenit keeper Yuri Lodygin scampering but the effort was inches wide before Kostas Mitroglou had the ball in the back of the net from Nicolas Gaitan's lofted pass but the Greek international was clearly offside.

Hulk went closest for the Russian visitors with a well-struck free-kick from distance just before the half-time whistle.

Premier League target Renato Sanches fired well over the bar early in the second half as Benfica attempted to get on the front foot before Zenit ace Axel Witsel went on a mazy run before producing a smart save from Julio Cesar with his fierce strike from outside the area.

Lodygin was called into action to deny Gaitan from an angle prior to Jardel firing a low half-volley just off target as the home side continued to threaten.

Zenit were reduced to ten men in the 90th minute when full-back Domenico Criscito received a second yellow card and from Gaitan's ensuing free-kick, Jonas got free in the box to head beyond Lodygin to give the Portuguese side a slender lead ahead of the return bout which will take place in Saint Petersburg on March 9.


2015/16 UEFA Champions League - Round of 16 first leg

Benfica (POR): 1 (Jonas 90+1')
Zenit Saint Petersburg (RUS): 0 (red card: Domenico Criscito 90')
Estadio da Luz, Lisbon, Portugal - 48,615

Andrew Slevison
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Andrew Slevison

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