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CHAMPIONS LEAGUE Ro16 - 2nd LEG: Late Benfica show forces Zenit exit

Benfica are through to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League courtesy of a dramatic come-from-behind win over Zenit Saint Petersburg.

Rui Vitoria's Eagles came into the second leg of the Round of 16 clash leading the Russians 1-0 following their home victory last month and managed to book their place in the final eight of Europe's elite by winning 2-1 at the Petrovsky Stadium for a 3-1 aggregate triumph.

It was Benfica who conjured the first real chance of the contest with Jonas forcing a clever save from Yuri Lodygin with a dangerously dipping free-kick before Ederson Moraes came off his line courageously to deny Zenit striker Artyom Dzyuba who was bearing down on goal menacingly in what was an otherwise cagey first half.

The opening goal came just over 20 minutes from time when Zenit tied it up at 1-1 overall thanks to a close range header from Hulk after Yuri Zhirkov had advanced down the left to supply a perfect cross for the Brazilian.

There was plenty of controversy surrounding the goal, however, as in the led-up Zhirkov forcefully got rid of Nelson Semedo on his way towards goal but nevertheless, it stood, and Zenit were back in with a major chance.

But Benfica edged ahead in the tie on 85 minutes when Raul Jimenez's powerful effort from range fell kindly off the crossbar from Lodygin's initial save, allowing Nicolas Gaitan to simply tap home a header with an open net in front of him.

The Portuguese side then produced a moment of magic deep into injury-time when substitute Talisca was the recipient of a looped pass from fellow second-half introduction Eduardo Salvio with the Brazilian forward taking a splendid first touch around his marker before firing beyond Lodygin to send Benfica safely through.

It was a missed opportunity for Andre Villas-Boas' Zenit who had not lost at home in all competitions since August and will now have to focus on their Russian Premier League title defence, in which they sit fifth on the table, nine points behind leaders CSKA Moscow.

For Vitoria and Benfica, they will await the Champions League quarter-final draw which takes place on March 18 while they strive to march towards a third-straight Primeira Liga title.

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

Zenit Saint Petersburg (RUS): 1 (Hulk 69')
Benfica (POR): 2 (Nicolas Gaitan 85', Talisca 90+6')
Petrovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg, Russia - 17,688

Andrew Slevison
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Andrew Slevison

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