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Victory in Minsk keeps Zenitís Champions League hopes alive
11.06.2008 21:31

zenit Goals from Pavel Pogrebnyak and record-signing Danny gave Zenit St. Petersburg a 2-0 win against Belarusian champions BATE Borisov on Wednesday evening.

After narrowly losing their first two group matches in Group H to Juventus (1-0 away) and Real Madrid (2-1 at home), Zenit were then held to a 1-1 draw by BATE in St. Petersburg on October 21. The results left them bottom of the group, and three points from the match in Minsk were essential if they were to maintain their bid to reach the play-off stages.

After a lively but largely uneventful first half hour, Zenit got the breakthrough they needed, Pogrebnyak running onto a fine pass from Konstantin Zyryanov to slot home in the 34th minute.

The second half saw BATE, who secured their fifth Belarusian title on Friday, earn a series of free-kicks but prove unable to seriously trouble the Zenit goal.

However, when French defender Sebastien Puygrenier was shown his second red card with more than 15 minutes left to play, the BATE fans sensed that their team could still get something from the game. After all, BATE had drawn 2-2 in late September in Minsk with Juventus, leading 2-0 at one stage.

However, it was not to be, and Zenit, with Andrei Arshavin making way for Slovakian defender Tomas Hubocan, easily absorbed BATE's attempts to grab an equalizer.

Deep into injury time, Portuguese midfielder Danny showed why Zenit were prepared to break the club transfer record for him, dribbling past three BATE defenders before hammering a shot into the corner of the net.

In the group's other match, Real Madrid lost at home to Juventus 2-0.

Juventus are now top of the group with 10 points. Real Madrid are second with six, Zenit third with four and BATE bottom with 2 points.

The first two teams go through to the play-offs. The third side drops down into the UEFA Cup.

Zenit now face Juventus at home on November 25 and Real away in their last game on December 10. Wins in both matches will guarantee them a place in the knockout stages, irrespective of other results.

While Zenit undoubtedly have a talented side, there would however be few brave enough to bet on the Russian champions and UEFA Cup holders being able to pull that off. For now, third place in the group and the chance to defend their UEFA Cup crown looks a lot more realistic.

News source: RIA Novosti
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