UCL: Moses stars as Gent edge Zenit to make knockout stage

Gent's Nigerian forward Moses Simon (L) vies for the ball against Zenit's Spanish midfielder Javi Garcia during the UEFA Champions' League, Group H, football match KAA Gent vs FC Zenit on December 9, 2015 at the KAA Gent Stadium in Gent. AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYS / AFP / JOHN THYS

Super Eagles forward Moses Simon was on parade for 88 minutes to help Gent to a 2-1 home victory over high-flying Zenit St Petersburg on Wednesday in a UEFA Champions League match day six clash at the GHELAMCO-arena.

The hosts were given a standing ovation as they went into half-time leading through Laurent Depoitre’s fine header – reward for a vibrant performance. Artem Dzyuba levelled but with Lyon beating Valencia, Gent’s rivals for second, it mattered not. Danijel Milicevic’s clincher started the celebrations in earnest 12 minutes from time.

The Nigerian international who was a surprise starter on the night was at the fore with one of his threatening runs down the left that prompted the opener. The 20-year-old cleverly delayed his cross, drawing the block then whipping in a ball that Depoitre, opting for precision over power, majestically guided into the far corner.

Zenit who had looked like they were already on holiday after winning their previous five games. Danny instigated a revival of sorts but as news filtered through that Valencia were behind, the Gent fans cheered and Nana Asare almost gave them more to celebrate; Lodygin intervened at point-blank range.

The visitors were much improved in the second period and Dzyuba’s excellent campaign continued as he stabbed in his sixth of the campaign – only Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski have scored more. Yet this was Gent’s night and Milicevic made it safe with an emphatic strike after more good work from Simon.

The victory saw Gent bring to an end Belgium’s 15-year absence from the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League.