Zenit take big step forward

Zenit take big step forward

Zenit take big step forward

Zenit St Petersburg and Porto both put a foot in the Champions League group stage with 1-0 away wins in the first leg of their respective playoff ties on Wednesday.

Oleg Shatov's first-half goal gave Andre Villas-Boas’ Zenit a 1-0 win at Standard Liege and a second-half effort from Hector Herrera was enough for the Portuguese coach’s former team Porto at Lille.

Wednesday's other three matches, Slovan Bratislava-BATE Borisov, Maribor-Celtic and Aalborg-APOEL Nicosia, all ended in 1-1 draws.

Zenit's goal in the 16th minute was a superb team effort, beginning when Domenico Criscito sent a clever pass into the path of Danny.

The Portuguese player chested the ball down for Hulk and the Brazilian picked out Shatov who side-footed home from near the penalty spot.

Danny and Jose Rondon both struck the woodwork in a dominant Zenit performancePorto, who have only missed out on the group stage four times since it started in 1992, took control of their tie when Mexico forward Herrera stabbed in from close range in the 61st minute after Vincent Enyeama had parried Jackson Martinez's header.

“We played a very serious game, against very serious and difficult opponents,”said Porto coach Julen Lopetegui. “We had more than enough chances to guarantee the result and now we have to continue working to make sure of a game result in the second leg.”

Slovan Bratislava gifted BATE the lead just before halftime when defender Thomas Jablonsky turned Sergei Krivets' looping cross past his own goalkeeper.

Robert Vittek grabbed a superbly taken equaliser for the Slovakian champions, who have never qualified for the group stage, with 10 minutes to play.

Celtic, who reached the playoffs after third qualifying round opponents Legia Warsaw forfeited the second leg for fielding an ineligible player, appeared determined to make the most of their reprieve in Slovenia.

They took an early lead when Callum McGregor fired in a rebound after six minutes and took the game to Maribor despite conceding an equaliser in the 14th minute when Damjan Bohar sidefooted past Craig Gordon.

Aalborg dominated the first-half against APOEL and took a deserved lead when Nicolaj Thomsen side-footed home from the edge of the area, but Brazilian Vinicius scored from the Cypriot side's only real attack nine minutes after the break. Arsenal held

Besiktas hit the bar straight from kickoff as they were held 0-0 at home by Arsenal in Tuesday's playoffs while a superb Gonzalo Higuain goal rescued Napoli in a 1-1 draw with visitors Athletic Bilbao.

Jonatan Soriano struck the woodwork three times and scored in Salzburg's 2-1 win over visiting Malmo, Bayer Leverkusen won 3-2 at FC Copenhagen and a late goal gave Steaua Bucharest a 1-0 home win over Ludogorets Razgrad in the other first leg ties.

Arsenal, aiming to reach the group stage for the 17th season in a row, will be happy to have survived their tricky trip to Istanbul, especially after Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey was sent off in the 80th minute for a second bookable offence.

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