Alexander Kerzhakov hit a second-half hat-trick as Zenit St Petersburg came from behind to get their UEFA Cup Group H campaign off to the perfect start by thrashing AEK Athens.
Cypriot midfielder Asimakis Krassas had given the visitors a third-minute lead but Andrei Arshavin restored parity for the Russian outfit a minute before half-time and from them on the hosts were always in control.
Kerzhakov, who was passed fit to play in the match after struggling of late with a thigh injury, put his side ahead three minutes after the restart and made the points safe by completing his treble with further goals after 54 and 68 minutes.
Igor Denisov sealed the rout with the fifth three minute before the final whistle.
AEK began brightly and created the first real opening after just two minutes, but Alessandro Soares fired narrowly wide of the far post.
A minute later the Greek side were ahead, though, when Sotirios Konstantinidis' good run ended with his shot hitting the woodwork and the ball rebounding to Krassas, who made no mistake from close range.
Zenit pushed forward looking for an instant reply but the away side defended resolutely.
Kerzhakov came close to equalising in the 11th minute with a decent effort that flew just wide, although it was not all one-way traffic.
AEK could have extended their advantage on the counter-attack. Soares' attempt after 17 minutes was saved by Viacheslav Malafeev and 10 minutes later Nikos Lyberopoulos drilled the ball over the bar from a promising position.
They could not find a second, though, and Zenit made them pay with a leveller just before the break. Alexander Spivak made some space on the left-hand side of the penalty area and fed Arshavin, who found the far corner.
Zenit began the second half in a positive manner - and were soon reaping their rewards.
Kerzhakov beat a defender and drilled in a powerful shot which went in off the crossbar to give his side the lead.
Six minutes later, the Russia international striker netted his second.
Chrisostomos Mihailidis parried an Arshavin shot and Kerzhakov was first to react to the rebound to give Zenit a two-goal cushion.
Mihailidis saved his team from further embarrassment just after the hour mark, when Vladimir Bystrov was put clean through on the keeper from Vladislav Radimov's superb pass.
Four minutes later Zenit created another good opening but Vladimir Bystrov missed the target from very close range.
The fourth goal was not long in coming, though, with Kerzhakov calmly lobbing the goalkeeper following Bystrov's pass.
Arshavin could have made it five four minutes from time but was denied by Mihailidis, without whom the Greek outfit would have suffered an even more emphatic defeat.
A minute later Alexander Gorshkov's powerful long-range drive was parried by Mihailidis but Denisov coolly followed up to complete the scoring.
Zenit St Petersburg Malafeev, Radimov (Denisov 75), Skrtel (Horak 46), Spivak, Mares, Sumulikoski, Flachbart, Bystrov (Vlasov 81), Gorshkov, Arshavin, Kerzhakov.
Subs Not Used: Contofalsky, Makarov, Katulsky, Chirita.
Goals: Arshavin 44, Kerzhakov 48, 54, 68, Denisov 81.
AEK Athens Michailidis, Bruno Alves, Kostenoglou, Soares, Petkov (Rusev 71), Konstantinidis (Tziortziopoulos 56), Katsouranis, Kontis, Amponsah (Kabantais 56), Krassas, Liberopoulos.
Subs Not Used: Chiotis, Moras, Solakis, Toskas.
Booked: Katsouranis, Bruno Alves.
Goals: Krassas 3.
Ref: Antonio Almeida Costa (Portugal).
News source: sportinglife.com
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