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UEFA Champions League
September 18, 2013
• Estadio Vicente Calderón, Madrid
Referee: W. Collum
• Attendance: 33855
A. Turan 64'
Léo Baptistão 80'
The final whistle is blown, and it's Atletico who start their Champions League campaign with a convincing 3-1 victory over Zenit, who now must regroup ahead of their next match in Group G. I've been Livio Caferoglu and it's thanks and farewell from me!
90' + 2'
Zenit are forcing the issue much too late, as they win three corners, one after another. However, Ansaldi tries to take matters into his own hands by forcing Courtois into a fine stop following a burst of pace, coming in from the left flank, and letting an effort fly.
Three minutes of stoppage time will be played out, as Atletico must defend a low Arshavin cross, which is stabbed clear by Miranda.
Arda and Koke are both fittingly replaced after putting in fantastic shifts this evening, with Raul Garcia and Cristian Rodriguez being given cameos to see out the victory.
Soon after one disappointment comes that of being replaced by Bystrov. And while we're on the topic of disappointments, it seems Hulk may have trudged off with a knock, which will deeply disappoint both the player and his club.
Zenit are presented with a potential opportunity to reply instantly, as Godin's clearance falls to Hulk on the edge of the box, but the Samba ace cannot divert his strike on target.
THAT'S THE CLINCHER!!! Welcome to the Champions League, Leo Baptistao! The former Rayo starlet runs onto a flowing move, which is intended for Villa, and he places the ball to perfection past Lodygin. What a way to end a run of 12 matches without a goal, eh?!
Adrian receives a standing ovation from the Atleti faithful, as Baptistao comes on in his place. Elsewhere, Hulk is foolishly booked for a late sliding tackle into Godin.
Adrian feeds Arda with a beautiful reverse pass in the box, and the winger lays off Koke for a shot which is just a whisker over Lodygin's goal.
Arshavin is thrown into the dragon's den for the last 15 minutes, with Zenit running out of time to find an equaliser. Game on at the Vicente Calderon! Meanwhile, Lombaerts must make a desperate clearance to deny Koke from a third, and fatal, goal.
Atleti are dispossessed on the edge of Zenit's box, and the visitors hit straight back on the counter, but Hulk's decision-making leaves a lot to be desired as Suarez does incredibly well to nip in with the interception.
And not for the first time, Godin dominates with his aerial presence and almost finds the target with a towering header following Koke's cross!
Turan has been mightily tenacious this evening. The Turk cuts inside from the right and curls a testing attempt which Lodygin palms clear for another corner!
A sloppy pass from Hulk to find Shatov ends a promising phase of play for Zenit. Smolnikov receives the ball from the resulting throw-in and wins a free kick, but Atletico resist the Brazilian's set-piece.
GREAT SAVE! Lodygin parries Villa's direct attempt away, and it's a corner which Godin *again* heads over the bar after beating Lombaerts in the air.
Hubocan is lucky to escape with only a yellow card as he crashes into the back of Villa on the edge of the box! How will this free kick shape up I wonder...
Yellow CardTomás Hubocan
ATLETI RETAKE THE LEAD!!! Arda shows real grit and determination to emerge with the decisive finish after an in-box melee from a free kick. Diego Simeone will now be surely breathing a sigh of relief!
BOOOOOOOM! That's the sound of the crossbar you can hear, as Hulk smashes a free kick past Courtois and onto the stanchion! Atletico could throw this one away if they don't buck up their ideas.
That was a lightning-quick counterattack from Zenit, who have knocked on the door since the restart. Atletico, meanwhile, will be kicking themselves at having shown such naivety to not show further intent and add to their lead.
IT'S THE EQUALISER!!!!! Enter the incredible Hulk, as the Brazilian powerhouse breaks through, dashing past Kerzhakov's intelligent lay-off, and unleashes a strike into the roof of Courtois' net!
Zenit's deliveries into the box have been steadily improving, with Ansaldi's most recent effort one of real class. Watch this space, perhaps?
WHAT A SAVE!! Courtois pulls off a brilliant save to tip away Kerzhakov's goal-bound header to his right.
And just as I say that, Smolkinov lets his team down by being shown a needless yellow card for an equally-needless foul on Villa. The Spaniard did well to nick the ball off Shatov initially, though.
Yellow CardIgor Smolnikov
This is significantly better from Zenit, although the impact of their tactical change may be blinded by Atletico's willingness to sit back for the remainder of the match.
Koke cannot capitalise on the free kick, and Zenit soon regain possession as Arda concedes a foul. However, Ansaldi, despite being found on the left flank, sees his deep cross easily gathered by Courtois.
Yellow CardNicolas Lombaerts
A yellow card is shown to Lombaerts following a sloppy clearance, which is compounded by a swipe at the feet of Villa.
Hulk - arguably Zenit's most threatening player so far - looks to probe into the Atletico box, but countryman and goalscorer Miranda stops him in his tracks.
We're back under way. It looks like Zenit have opted for a back-four in this second half, but they may need some time to adapt to the new formation, judging by Atletico's quick restart.
Welcome back for the second half, ladies and gentleman! We have one change of note for you, as Zenit bring on attacking midfielder Shatov for defender Neto.
And that's that as far as the first half in the Vicente Calderon is concerned! Join us in a few minutes for continued coverage of the second period between Atletico and Zenit in the Champions League.
45' + 1'
Fresh from his fluffed header, Godin works his way into the referee's book with a silly foul on the edge of Atletico's box, but Hulk's set-piece cannons against the wall.
Yellow CardDiego Godín
BAD MISS! Godin could have wrapped the three points up with another half yet to play, as Koke's delivery finds the Uruguayan in the box from a free kick, but he heads over the bar from a crouched standing position.
More adventurous play from Atletico as Arda comes in from the wing and sends a tantalising through ball which is ultimately *just* too strong. Moments later, Koke powers through the middle and hits an effort just wide!
How will Zenit react to that setback? They'll definitely have to switch up their approach. On paper, they have the personnel to level with Atletico, but it remains to be seen whether they sacrifice their five-man defence and chase the game.
GOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLL!!! I's been coming as the Spaniards draw first blood. Koke's wonderful, curling delivery from a corner is met by Miranda at the near post, and the defender powerfully nods the ball past Lodygin!
As has been the story of the half, Atletico don't waste any time in using the Zenit pressure as a warning sign and turn defence into attack. Koke suddenly fires an attempt at goal, but Neto blocks.
Danny stars again - due to his defensive work! The attacker breaks up yet more play from his wing position and wins a free kick for the Russians in the process.
CLOSE!!! It seems only a matter of time before the hosts take the lead, with Filipe driving forward and unleashing a low strike that whistles just past the post.
Atletico continue to seek an opening in this encounter as Arda probes at Zenit's backline and wins a corner, but it's ultimately to no avail.
BEST CHANCE OF THE GAME! Suarez shows his warrior-like tendencies by winning the ball back and leaving his opponent on the deck, but his low cross can't be turned in by Koke!
Zenit are presented with another opportunity in quick succession as Juanfran fouls Ansaldi with the box nearby. However, the free kick amounts to nothing.
It's Hulk's chance to test Courtois again, but sadly for the forward and his side, his shot is speculative at best again, and the Belgian goalkeeper is happy to restart play from the goal kick.
VILLA AGAIN!!! The Spanish hitman looks to be in the mood tonight, as he forces Lodygin into another save with his latest attempt from distance.
Unfortunately for Zenit's frontmen, they're being forced to do an awful lot of tracking back and are likely to only find solace on the counterattack.
The Rojiblancos may have shown themselves to be the more comfortable team so far, but don't discount Zenit just yet. Any team has a chance with Hulk and Danny in its ranks!
Another Atletico free kick in a dangerous position on the left here, as Arda tumbles down following a shove from Zyryanov. Koke bends one in, but it's slightly overhit for Villa to connect with.
OOOH! Villa looks sharp in these opening exchages, as he is free in the D of the Zenit box but cannot keep his shot down! Great interchange football from Atletico.
Atletico win a corner, which is taken by Arda, and Lodygin has to assert his authority on the situation with a powerful palm away.
Zenit have their first attempt of the match, but it's not one for the history books, as Hulk sees a long-range effort swerve hopelessly wide of the target.
It seems the Russians are starting the match with a five-man defence - probably in a bid to soak up as much of Atletico's fluid attacking play as possible.
We're under way folks!
Remember you can join in on all the action by tweeting your thoughts on the match to me via Twitter @livmc, or comment in-game using our dedicated chat section!
And in the visiting dugout, Zenit: Lodygin; Ansaldi, Lombaerts, Neto, Hubocan; Smolnikov, Zyryanov, Witsel; Hulk, Danny, Kerzhakov.
We'll start with the hosts Atletico: Courtois, Godin, Luis, Juanfran, Miranda; Suarez, Koke, Gabi, Arda, Lopez, Villa.
Hello and welcome to LIVE commentary of the Champions League Group G opening clash between Atletico Madrid and Zenit St Petersburg. I'm Livio Caferoglu and I'll be taking you through all the action as it happens! Team news is on its way.
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