Zenit St. Petersburg were unable to make history by becoming the first Russian side to reach the quarter finals of the UEFA Champions League late goals from Nicolas Gaitan and Anderson Talisca cancelled out Hulk’s opener to send Benfica through.
Benfica with a 1-0 lead had previously progressed in 46 of their 54 UEFA competition ties in which they have held a first leg lead and the Rui Vitoria’s men went into the tie in full confidence with hopes of making the quarter finals of the Champions League.
The away side was without goalkeeper Julio Cesar who did not recover on time from injury so was replaced by Ederson Moraes while Almeida and Jardel were suspended for the encounter. Mauricio replaced the suspended Criscito for the host.
Interestingly, the first eight minutes was more exciting than the first leg match between both sides as they tried to cease initiative early in the game. Match winner of the first leg Jonas curled a right shot that was saved by Yuri Lodigin in goal for Zenit and at the other end Dzyuba rolls past Samaris far too easily and then whacks the ball across goal and just past the post.
It was good end-to-end stuff from both side – one of Europe’s hottest property the young Sanchez fired in a right foot shot for the away side but it went wide while Hulk blasted a 30yards freekick just wide as the first half ended goalless.
Zenit manager Andre Vilas Boas who was hoping to help create history as the first Russian side to make the quarter final of the Champions League sent on Oleg Shatov and Igor Smolnikov for Alexander Anyukov and Alexander Kokorin as they cracked up the pressure.
The persistence paid off as Hulk headed in from close range to level scores on aggregate 1-1 but the visits kept faith and were rewarded for their bravery as star man Nicolas Gaitan turned in substitute Raul Jimenez’s shot before Anderson Talisca scored to make it 2-1 on the night and 3-1 on aggregate.