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UEFA Champions League
18 September 2012
• Estadio La Rosaleda, Málaga
Referee: M. Clattenburg
• Attendance: 23670
Isco 3', 76'
J. Saviola 13'
That's all from me - Miles Chambers - though I hope you've enjoyed the game! Stick around on Goal.com for post-match reaction to this Group C clash and all the other seven Champions League games going on tonight!
That's it, game over, and what a debut it has been for Malaga in the Champions League group stage! Isco opened the scoring with a deftly finished, exquisitely worked opening goal in the third minute. Javier Saviola doubled the lead with a weaving run to collect and tap in a low cross from Jesus Gamez on the right wing. And, late in the second half, Isco finished the Russian visitors off with a super strike from 20 yards into the top corner. It finished Malaga 3-0 Zenit St Petersburg!
Well, Hulk's night is topped off with a yellow card for diving inside the area, completely feigning a challenge of any sort from Malaga centre-back Weligton. Deserved.
The ball bumps off Hulk's backheel and, once again, Zenit lose possession in an attack without necessarily needing to.
Bruno Alves hoofs the ball into the box from the halfway line but Kerzhakov gestures in frustration when it's too high for him to leap and head.
Another chance for a fourth goal for Malaga, this time Eliseu lofts his cross from the right for the back post, where substitute Duda is waiting but his downward header is tipped over the bar after bouncing over Malafeev's head and threatening to dip under the bar on its way back down.
Joaquin comes off for Duda in Malaga's final change of the night.
Oh my, Malaga nearly scored a fourth! Los Boquerones attacked down the right but the ball in from Eliseu was saved after a very unordinary and half-hearted shot from Joaquin. The ball is loose for a second but Malafeev quickly rolls over and pounced before an opposition player can knock it in from one yard out.
Russia are resorting to long balls, something they've resisted for most of the match to their credit (or detriment, perhaps).
Hulk has not had a happy return to the south-west of Europe has he?! The forward has been uncomfortable in possession and, except for that early strike against the crossbar, has been increasingly quiet in attacks.
Implausible, but not impossible...
The crowd are in full voice now, singing away because they know it would be implausible for the Russian club to catch them in this final 11 minutes.
GOAL!! Isco scores again!! The attacker has been in superb form all night and he adds to his earlier goal with a cracking strike on his right foot 20 yards from goal. He picks up a pass from Joaquin on hisleft with his first touch then thunders it into the top right-hand corner with his second. The visitors are surely out of this clash now! Malaga 3-0 Zenit St Petersburg!
Zenit make a second sub, bringing off Konstantin Zyryanov for Luka Dordevic.
Malaga left-back Monreal gets in on the action, finding himself inside the St Petersburg box but blazing his attempt a fair few yards over.
Isco is up to his usual tricks on the left, weaving in and out the defenders along the left flanks. His balls into the box are having less effect than they had in the first half however, as Zenit look more organised and less all over the place.
Less than 20 minutes remain for the home side to hold on or the Zenitchiki to pull two goals or more back to save leaving Andalusia with nothing.
Denisov is brought down by Camacho 45 yards from goal, but no yellow card as the contact was fairly minimal, albeit clumsy.
Malaga are starting to remember how to attack, and Zenit's players are looking more frustrated as a result.
Superb pressing from Iturra to disposses Zyryanov in the middle of the park.
At the other end, Isco (with a whisking but unchallenged cross from the right) and Eliseu test the Zenit defence in a rare foray forward but their dribbles and clever trickery come to nothing.
Zenit go close again! Kerzhakov is denied a tap in from five yards by Cabalerro's outstretched palm, then Shirokov's curled effort from the edge of the box is too high to dip below the crossbar. Malaga still lead, but it remains the visitors in the ascendancy.
Roque Santa Cruz
Boos echo around La Rosaleda again as Zenit settle back into their passing groove once more.
Malaga make a sub, and goalscorer Javier Saviola will make way for Roque Santa Cruz. He gets a huge ovation, understandably.
Play at the moment pretty much consists of Zenit attacking and Malaga clearing. Over and over. Can Spalletti's side get at least a goal? Or will Pellegrini's men hold out for the final 30 minutes of the match?
Hulk is deemed to have fouled Eliseu when trying to tackle the Malaga player after losing the ball in an unsuccessful dribble.
Kerzhakov goes down easily in the box but no yellow card for diving for the Russian striker, who looked like he might have tripped a tiny bit on centre-back Weligton's feet. No penalty either though, and Malaga have possession back.
Opponents Hulk and Dimichelis exchange someone shouting after the Zenit forward swings at a ball dribbling off the pitch and nearly clips the Argentina centre-back. However, seconds later - once the referee waddles over - and the pair are smiling just like best buddies.
Bystrov has the ball inside the box on the right, but two dummied shots later and he's tackled by Monreal.
Isco is rolling about clutching hi face on the floor after Anyukov's elbow catches him in a challenge, but once play stops he groggily returns to his feet and play recommences.
It's three-on-three, Eliseu breaks through the defence with a clever run and...oh, but his shot is straight at Malafeev and the rebound is fired tamely towards the nearest defender by Joaquin. Lucky, lucky Zenit.
Since that instantaneous chance, the game has been simmering below boil, with both sides splitting possession evenly.
Almost straight away Zenit could (and maybe should) have scored a goal back! Kerzhakov is slotted into the box and his first touch is the hammer it into the net with his right foot, but unfortunately for the travelling fans it flies past the the outside of the right post.
We're back under way at La Rosaleda, and Malaga have made a substitute at half-time: Manuel Iturra comes on Francisco Portillo.
AC Milan and Anderlecht is currently 0-0 at the San Siro in the other Group C clash by the way. Nothing much going on there apparently!
Lots of questions ahead of the second half then. Can Malaga maintain their vibrant attacks throughout the second half, and maybe add to their tally? Will Zenit remember how to defend and use flanks for more than just giving the ball away? And will Hulk save the day for Spalletti, giving plenty of media outlets their headlines on a platter?
Referee Mark Clatternburg blows the whistle for half-time! Malaga has been terrific in patches, whereas Zenit St Petersburg have been static in defence and wasteful in attack. Luciano Spalletti's men will have come to La Rosaleda with hopes of a draw at the very least but, unless they come out after the break firing on all cylinders, their Champions League campaign will begin on a very flat note.
Hulk wins a throw-in on the left but possession is swiftly lost and a goal-kick needlessly given to their opponents.
Another chance for Zenit (they're not giving my fingers a rest here!), another missed opportunity. This time a corner is headed wide of the right post for a Malaga goal-kick.
Another great save from Cabalerro! The shot-stopper is brought back into action when Zenit whip the ball into the box from the left and Shirokov, who had beaten the offside trap, headers on goal but the goalkeeper reaches up and holds onto the ball.
Kerzakhov shoots!! Cabalerro saves, and what a super save it was. The Zenit striker was inexplicably left unmarked at the back post for a corner and, when the ball deflected his way, the Russia international thrashed on target with his left towards the bottom right corner. However, the Malaga keeper leaps to his left and ensures just a corner - and not a goal - is given away.
Zenit are making a sub - it's not clear if it's enforced, but Vladirmir Bystrov comes on for left-back Lukovic.
St Petersburg's passing has been far, far too wasteful. Too many times the Russian side have tried to counter-attack but been foiled by their own carelessness.
Caballero dives down to his right to save Hulk's curling effort on his left foot. Not a major problem for the Malaga No.13, but it certainly required him to stay alert.
I can't remember the time I saw a game this open this early in a match! The midfields are mind-bogglingly stretched, and Saviola tries to make the most of this space, gliding towards goal then lashing a shot straight at Malafeev with his left foot from 25 yards out.
Zenit break and charge towards the other end of the pitch with eagerness, but Faizulin's pass for Denisov down the left is intercepted and swept clear.
Over one third of our way into this Group C clash and Saviola could have just sent the Andalusia club 3-0 ahead, but his right-footed flick pops wide. Joaquin did all the graft along the left, dribbling to the byline then cutting alongside, leaving the Zenit defender trailing behind him, but his low pass to his team-mate was not converted into another goal.
Yellow CardJavier Saviola
A borderline-comical dive by Saviola on the edge of the Zenit box earns the former Barcelona striker a booking from the referee.
Straight away the Liga club power to the other side of the pitch, sprinting in unison down to the Zenit 18-yard box. However, Eliseu's finish is once again wayward, dribbling way wide of the right upright for a goal-kick to the trailing team.
Dimichelis heads it off the line! Caballero stretches his body to deny Faizulin then Zyryanov's ball back towards goal is cleared just ahead of the goalline by the Malaga defender.
Zenit whip it side to side along their defence as Malaga sit back and wait. To be fair to them, they've earned this defensive rest. 2-0 it remains to the Spanish side.
A careless throw out from Caballero goes straight to Faizulin on the left wing but the Zenit attacker cannot squirm the ball into a dangerous area.
Four on three in Los Boquerones' favour, but Saviola's ball to his left for Eliseu is spooned so high by the left winger from 20 yards out that it probably came down from the heavens covered in snow.
Igor Denisov has a blast from halfway inside the Malaga half put it drifts harmlessly wide of the left post. Dream on Denisov, dream on.
Saviola is through on goal 30 yards out but the whistle is quickly brought to the referee's lips to call him offside.
Zenit have the ball back, which means they're no longer chasing shadows. For now.
So close to goal number three! Joaquin puts the ball in from the right which Saviola can't connect properly to, and then Isco can only knock it into Malafeev's outstretched body and wide for a corner.
Malaga are pressing heavily and, unless Zenit can alter their tactics hugely, you get the feeling that the hosts are going to score more at this rate...
Aleksandr Kerzhakov strikes the free-kick straight at the wall and it bobbles through for goalkeeper Willy Caballero to collect.
Yellow CardMartín Demichelis
Viktor Faizulin is brought tumbling to the floor by Dimichelis, who is given a yellow card for the clumsy tackle 30 yards from goal.
GOAL!! Malaga strike again!! This time it's new boy Javier Saviola who etches his name on the scoresheet. Jesus Gamez is given too much time on the right flank to pick a pass and he curls, along the floor, inside the box for team-mate Saviola to run betwen the static Russian club's defence and slot past Malafeev from six yards to score. Malaga 2-0 Zenit!
Hulk tears down the right and crosses low and quick but Los Boquerones centre-back Michael Demichelis clears.
Now Malaga have claimed the ball as their own and are trying to find more luck on the left flank where they were able to craft that first goal of the game...
The Zenitchiki have certainly been hogging possession since that early strike from Spain starlet Isco in the third minute. The majority of the supporters inside the stadium are booing as a result, obviously.
How will Spalletti's side respond to going behind? Hulk's thunderbolt off the woodwork was a top start, but they will want to maintain this pressure ideally.
Malaga are playing in all black, by the way, while the visitors are wearing a vivid sky blue strip from top to toe. Just a little snippet for your imagination I guess.
What a start we have had. Fingers crossed the tempo can stay this fast and frenetic!
Hulk smashes it off the crossbar! The Zenit No.29 fires it from 25 yards or so out to momentarily stun the home crowd into silence, but they breathe a sigh of relief when it bounces away from goal to safety.
GOAL!! Isco puts Malaga ahead!! The Malaga forward cuts inside on the left after being passed to by Eliseu, dribbles with ease past Zenit right-back Alexander Anyukov then curls it into the bottom corner off the post from just inside the box, 15 yards out. A fantastic finish and what a way to start for the Liga side!
A corner for Malaga ends up in a Zenit free-kick when Vyacheslav Malafeev, the Zenit captain and keeper, is believed to have been fouled by a home team attacker or two.
Almost immediately Hulk clatters into Eliseu on the Zenit right flank in a bid to win back the ball, and carelessly concedes a free-kick around the halfway line as a result.
And we're off! The Champions League group stage has begun for these two teams!
Right, with the game about to begin, I shall reveal to you which of the previous four clubs Saviola has played in the Champions League for! Barcelona, Monaco, Real Madrid and Benfica. How many did you get right? Without checking I think I could have got two, so I applaud you if you bettered me!
The players are onto the field and there is a top atmosphere echoing around the floodlit La Rosaleda stadium as the Uefa anthem (is it an anthem? A weird, vocal, orchestral song, perhaps...) rings around the ground.
Who else share Zenit and Malaga's Group C? Italian giants AC Milan and relative underdogs Anderlecht, who are playing at the San Siro tonight. If I hear any of any score updates in that clash I will, of course, bring them to you. No need for you to bounce between links, desperately trying to find out the score.
The players are waiting in the tunnel and only five minutes stand between us and the beginning of the 2012-13 Champions League group stage. Excited? Nervous? Confused? I'm hoping one of the first two, and more preferably the first choice!
In the blue corner, so to speak, Zenit forward Hulk is also making his European debut for his new club. The Brazilian attacker was a prolific threat at Porto for years - can he replicate that for his new employers?
One of the major talking points tonight is Javier Saviola starting for the hosts this evening. The Argentina striker, who joined the club in the final hours of the transfer window, will play for his fifth club in the Champions League tonight! Can you name the previous four clubs? I'll let you try and guess and tell you just before kick-off...
Tonight’s visitors to La Rosaleda stadium also make one alteration to the line-up which started in their 2-0 defeat at home to Terek Grozny on Friday night. Italian boss Luciano Spalletti brings in Aleksandar Lukovic at left-back for Renat Yanbaev, who doesn’t even make the substitute bench tonight.
Just the one change for the Andalusia hosts tonight: Jesus Gamez coming in for Sergio Sanchez at right-back. The outgoing defender was sent off for collecting two yellow cards in their 3-1 weekend win over Levante and, although the suspension has no affect on European football, head coach Manuel Pellegrini clearly deemed his full-back worthy of being dropped/rested to the bench.
Zenit: Malafeev; Anyukov, Lombaerts, Bruno Alves, Lukovic; Zyryanov, Denisov, Shirokov; Faizulin, Kerzhakov, Hulk. Subs: Zhenov, Cheminava, Lumb, Bystrov, Bukharov, Dordevic, Kanunnikov.
Malaga: Caballero; Gamez, Demichelis, Weligton, Monreal; Camacho; Joaquin, Isco, Portillo, Eliseu; Saviola. Subs: Kameni, Sanchez, Buonanotte, Duda, Iturra, Juanmi, Santa Cruz.
Line-ups before team news waffle and pre-match chatter? Why, of course...
Hello and welcome to Goal.com's LIVE text commentary of Malaga v Zenit St Petersburg! I'm Miles Chambers and I'll be your guide throughout this Champions League group stage clash.
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