Champions League football: Zenit scrape past Anderlecht
St. Petersburg, Oct 25 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Alexander Kerzhakov's second-half penalty gave Zenit St. Petersburg a 1-0 win over Anderlecht in the Champions League to kickstart the team's campaign in the football competition.
The victory on a rain-soaked here Wednesday night brings Zenit their first points of the campaign after two opening defeats to group rivals AC Milan and Malaga, who later meet in Spain.
"We need to keep winning. It's great we got three points today, we need to keep working, keep moving forward to achieve our aims. The team I saw on the pitch today was in decent shape, we've seen growth in the last few games," Zenit coach Luciano Spalletti said.
With the win, Zenit are a point behind second-placed Malaga and three behind leaders Milan in Group C while Anderlecht dropped to fourth.
Kerzhakov sent Anderlecht goalkeeper Silvio Proto the wrong way after right-back Alexander Anyukov was fouled in the penalty area in the 71st minute. It was the 29-year-old forward's 200th career goal.
Kerzhakov teamed up with Hulk to direct an early shot just around the post early on. Anderlecht's Brazilian midfielder Kanu then came perilously close with a ferocious drive from distance in the 10th minute of the game.
Milan Jovanovic came even close moments later, sending a slide-rule shot just past the post after a one-two with Dennis Praet.
Zenit survived the early pressure to carve out another chance of their own with Hulk blasting a low free-kick narrowly wide.
Anderlecht winger Guillaume Gillet then elected to square the ball when clean through in the 28th minute, sinking to his knees when he found a Zenit defender instead. The visitors had a strong penalty appeal turned down right after the break as Jovanovic appeared to be blocked in the box.
Then Kanu rose unchallenged in the box on the hour mark but glanced Lucas Bigila's free-kick too lightly, allowing Zenit goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev to punch clear.
Substitute Vladimir Bystrov found rare space on the edge of the Anderlecht area soon after but poked a lacklustre effort over the crossbar. The hosts got their goal moments later when Anyukov, looking to latch onto Roman Shirokov's free-kick, was pulled down by Jovanovic.
The Serbian striker nearly made amends immediately, firing a left-footed volley inches over Malafeev's crossbar.
Anderlecht striker Tom De Sutter rolled a late effort past the post and Zenit saw out time for a hard-fought win.
Zenit lost their opening two matches 3-0 to Malaga and 3-2 at home to Milan.