After an opening day loss to Atletico Madrid, Zenit St. Petersburg needed a win against Austria Vienna in Tuesday's early game. They didn't get it, thanks to both a slew of red chances and a first-half red card; and with a 0-0 draw in Russia the route is now open for Porto to secure their hold on a knock-out spot.
Zenit huffed and puffed throughout the first half, but they couldn't quite manage to break down the visiting defence. The closest they came was after Hulk and Danny exchanged passes in the area, with the former eventually forcing a fine save from Heinza Lindner, but considering the amount of pressure they were putting on Vienna it's shocking that they didn't manage to grab a goal before the break.
Indeed, it was actually the visitors who looked more like scoring. They had a penalty appeal turned down after Ogor Smolnikov was (correctly) adjudged to have fouled Daniel Royer outside the area rather than inside, and Royer showed himself worth fouling when his vicious, swerving strike nearly caught out Juri Lodigin midway through the half. Philipp Hosiner could also have put Vienna on the board when he pounced on a poor pass from Viktor Faizulin, but his 25-yard shot was deflected just wide.
Things got even worse for the hosts as the interval drew closer. A bizarre refereeing decision saw Zenit reduced to ten men. Axel Witsel went studs-up into a fifty-fifty challenge with Royer, catching the Vienna man after clearing out the ball. His lead foot stayed entirely earthbound, but nonetheless the tackle was adjudged to be a red card offence, and suddenly the game was turned on its head.
Down a man, the pressure was suddenly on Zenit. Indeed, the visitors had the ball in the net within five minutes of the restart, with Marin Leveonac slotting in after a collision between Royer and Lodigin left the ball loose. The goal, unsurprisingly, was disallowed, but there was no denying that the man advantage was helping Vienna immensely.
There were chances at the other end as well. Alexander Anyukov wasted a prime opportunity to find the opener after Vienna's defence was expertly dissected, and the substitute combination of Andrei Arshavin and Roman Shirkov probably would have scored if not for a miskick with the goal gaping. But neither one managed to snatch a win, and it's difficult to claim that either side would have deserved it.
Zenit St. Petersburg starting lineup (4-2-3-1): Juri Lodigin; Igor Smolnikov, Nicolas Lombaerts, Tomas Hubocan, Alexander Anyukov; Axel Witsel, Viktor Faizulin; Danny, Oleg Shatov (Roman Shirokov 50'), Hulk; Alexander Kerzhakov (Andrei Arshavin 65').
Austria Vienna starting lineup (4-2-3-1): Heinza Lindner; Markus Suttner, Manuel Ortlechner, Christian Ramsebner, Fabian Koch; Florian Mader, James Holland; Marin Leovac (Rubin Okote 81'), Tomas Simkovic, Daniel Royer; Philipp Hosiner.