APOEL FC beats Zenit, 2-1 in UCL

Second-half goals from Gustavo Manduca and Ailton gave APOEL Nicosia a 2-1 win over Zenit St. Petersburg on Tuesday, the Cypriot side’s first ever victory in the Champions League group stage.

Konstantin Zyryanov put Zenit ahead in the 63rd minute when he picked up a pass from Danny and shot low past APOEL goalkeeper Dionisis Chiotis.

The hosts were rewarded for their attacking play 10 minutes later when Manduca pounced on a loose ball in the box and slotted the ball into the Zenit net.

The winner came two minutes later when Brazilian striker Ailton evaded the Zenit defense and shot into the far corner past goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev.

Zenit was reduced to 10 men a minute later when Bruno Alves was shown a second yellow card for a foul on goalscorer Ailton, but the Russian side pushed hard for the equalizer and almost got it in the 84th when Chiotis fumbled a shot from Danny and only just managed to steer the rebound out of danger.

APOEL picked up three points in Group G, which also includes Porto and Shakhtar Donetsk.

”We’re very happy that we’ve beat such a great team, I have a lot of respect for Zenit,” APOEL coach Ivan Jovanovic said. ”We must remain grounded and serious because every success raises expectations.”

APOEL was not intimidated by the former Europa League winners, who initially struggled to find their rhythm. The hosts almost scored first in the 25th when a Helio Pinto through pass gave Ailton a clear chance, but he had his close-range shot well saved by Malafeev.

Zenit’s best chance in the first half came in the 45th when Danny went on a run from the halfway line before feeding a pass to an unmarked Roman Shirokov, whose poorly aimed shot from the edge of the box went well wide of the Cypriot goal.

After a flurry of three goals in 12 minutes put Zenit behind, the Russian side piled on the pressure in search of an equalizer. Viktor Fayzulin’s close range effort in the 87th bounced off the post and rolled into Chiotis’ arms.

Aleksandr Kerzhakov’s low shot from 20 yards in the 90th just missed the far post.

”We’ll try to analyze the mistakes we’ve made in the match and we’ll try to correct them,” Zenit coach Luciano Spalletti said.