Zenit St. Petersburg vs. Liverpool, 2013 Europa League: Final score 2-0, poor finishing costs Reds in Russia

Oleg Nikishin

Liverpool showed some early promise in St. Petersburg but were ultimately brushed aside as Zenit came away with a 2-0 home victory.

The match began in frenetic fashion, with neither Zenit St. Petersburg nor Liverpool bothering with the 'midfield' nonsense that so characterises modern football. Pepe Reina was immediately forced into action thanks to a snapshot from Alexander Kerzhakov, and there was more to come thanks to Hulk, whose left-footed drive was just about parried around the post by the Liverpool goalkeeper.

But if Reina's goal was under attack from the off, Vyacheslav Malafeev was under just as much pressure. Luis Suarez was the Red's prime dangerman, of course, and had it not been for an uncharacteristic lack of sharpness from the Uruguay international he might have had a first-half hattrick. The most glaring example came after a crazy backpass from Nicolas Lombaerts which saw Suarez latch onto possession, round Malafeev, and fail to score thanks to a poor touch.

It was something of a miracle that the game went to halftime at 0-0, and Glen Johnson nearly grabbed a vital away goal immediately after the restart only to be denied by a superb save from Malafeev. Suarez then followed up with another near-miss as Liverpool slowly drew out the match, controlling the ball and attempting to draw the sting out of their hosts.

That didn't work so well. Despite the visitors' dominance, they were open to the sucker punch, and that's exactly what happened in the 70th minute when Hulk dragged the ball out from under his feet near the top of the box and unleashed an unstoppable shot that arrowed into Reina's top corner. And worse was to come shortly thereafter, when the Liverpool defence got sucked to one side, allowing Sergei Semak to steal in unmarked on a cross and blast in from close range.

The visitors tried desperately to snatch a goal, but despite creating chances the Reds remained totally incapable of finishing them off. Surprise! Losing 2-0 away isn't the end of the world, of course, but Zenit are quite clearly in pole position to advance to the next round.

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