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February 14, 2013
• Stadion Petrovskij, Sankt-Peterburg (St. Petersburg)
Referee: Carlos Velasco Carballo
• Attendance: 19748
S. Semak 72'
90' + 2'
Full Time. The referee brings a rare Liverpool counter to a half with the final whistle. 2-0 is the final score, and Liverpool face the prospect of reversing a two goal deficit at Anfield in two weeks' time. They'll rue their lax finishing in the first half, and their defending in the second. Thanks for reading!
Jamie Carragher hounds Hulk down on the halfway line and fouls the Brazilian, leaving him on the floor. Frustration. Free kick Zenit.
The home crowd have livened up, and Zenit are playing the ball around nicely now. It's difficult to see this scoreline changing before the final whistle.
Luis Suarez wins a free kick on the edge of the box, before stepping up to bend a decent effort towards Malafeev's bottom corner. The Russian keeper gets down well to parry away.
The newly introduced Lucas Leiva picks out Downing on the right wing, who wins a corner for his side.
Liverpool have managed to relieve some of the home pressure, with Enrique and Gerrard both succeeding in carrying the ball into the Zenit half.
Funny game, football. Just as Brendan Rodgers' side were looking the most comfortable they had been all game, a quick brace of goals means they're now a long-shot to recover the tie, let alone the game. Zenit are palpably invigorated by their two goals, trapping their visitors inside their own half for the time being.
GOAL! It's 2-0, with substitute Sergey Semak adding a quickfire second. The Russian tucks in a low cross at the near post, after the away defence fails to clear a relatively harmless delivery.
GOAL! We have an opener, and it's Hulk who has his name on the scoresheet, with an absolute bullet of a strike. Picking the ball up yet again in front of the Liverpool defence, the Brazilian belted an effort into the top corner of Pepe Reina's goal from all of 25 yards. Fine strike.
Zenit's attacks are increasingly petering out in this second half. Another through ball is overhit into touch, and the loss of playmaker Danny is clearly telling.
Enrique is growing into the clash, showing a far more assured touch than he has done in recent weeks, and offering a good outlet down the left flank.
Suarez sends another fine chance wide, after Stewart Downing foraged in from the left and laid the ball into the Uruguayan's path. Suarez, with the whole goal to aim at from the edge of the box, bent his side-footed effort inches past the post.
Yellow CardTomás Hubocan
The tempo of the game has slowed since the beginning of the second half, with both sides opting for more measured build-up play.
Danny, who looks to have picked up a knock, is replaced by Sergey Semak.
Johnson shows his worth at the other end, nipping a Zenit counter attack in the bud following an easily dealt with free kick from Steven Gerrard.
Magnificent stuff from Glen Johnson as the full back stampedes forward across all of 60 yards, beating three men on his way, and prods a shot at goal that's tipped out for a corner by Malafeev.
And we're away again for the second half. Surely there's goals on the cards in this game...
The half-time scoreline is a deceptive one, as we've had no shortage of chances in Russia. Luis Suarez in particular should have had two, but reverted back to the profligate finisher of last season when presented with each opportunity. The hosts, too, have forced Pepe Reina into two wonderful saves within the opening ten minutes. In short, it's a very decent game, and simmering nicely.
45' + 1'
The referee signals for half time, and - somehow - it's 0-0 at the break. Each side could have netted at least twice, but they head down the tunnel level and goalless.
Liverpool's backline is coping a lot better with the hosts' attacks now, with Martin Skrtel especially dominant in the challenge. Down the other end of the field, Stewart Downing cuts in from the right and sends a left-footed strike high and wide.
Raheem Sterling, from the left byline, picks out Suarez inside the six yard box. Never one to take the simple option when an elaborate one is available, Suarez goes for a backheeled flick at goal, which flashes just wide. Another golden chance missed. Still nil-nil.
Jose Enrique has been looking to get forward when possible throughout the half, this time just failing to get on the end of a slightly overhit ball from Gerrard.
Glen Johnson - who had an absolute mare on Monday night, by the way - makes his way into the Zenit box, but the ball is shepherded out by a defender. He looks back to his reliable self so far, though, Johnson.
It's -5 degrees on the St Petersburg pitch, I'm reliably informed. Jamie Carragher, of course, sports shorts sleeves. Man's game.
Kerzhakov looks to connect with a cross with an acrobatic overhead scissor-kick... but connects with precisely nothing of the ball and plenty of thin air. The cross sails past him and out for a throw.
Yet another save from Reina - though less convincing this time, as he gets down to shovel a Hulk strike onto his near post and the ball squirms back off the woodwork, along the goal-line, and is cleared away to safety.
Hulk breaks forward once again from midfield, marauding past/through/over Joe Allen, before Jamie Carragher takes the ball expertly off of his toes as he made his way into the penalty box. Fine defending.
Suarez - surprise surprise, Liverpool's main threat - is flagged offside after being released beyond the defence by Gerrard. It looked tight, that, and the Uruguayan will fancy his chances of unpicking this backline once or twice more over the course of this game.
Saint Steven of Gerrard takes, but the ref blows up for some grappling in the box. Spoilsport.
The game looks to have settled into something approaching a rhythm after the frantic opening. Liverpool win a corner after finally happening upon some sustained possession.
Yellow CardMartin Skrtel
Skrtel picks up a booking against his old club for a high foot.
It should be one-nil Liverpool here, Lombaerts losing possession cheaply on the edge of his own box, and Suarez seizing on the loose ball to drive at goal. He takes the ball too far wide trying to round the keeper though, and the chance dissipates.
And for those of you who are spending your evening on your computer reading this play-by-play report, and yet DON'T boast a better half - improbable as it may be - have a fine evening nonetheless.
And by the way, Happy Valentines Day to you all! Here's hoping that today's game delivers an evening of sizzling European romance - preferably with a enjoyable climax.
Gerrard's looks to find his passing range with a raking left-to-right ball out to Downing, but the pass is just cut out.
Bar the odd Suarez breakaway, Zenit have their visitors pinned in their own half in these opening stages, playing the ball nicely around the edge of the box.
Pepe Reina makes another fine stop, turning Hulk's drilled effort around his left hand post after the Brazilian had broken forward from deep and lashed one at goal from the edge of the box. Six minutes in, and we could have had three goals.
Great save! Liverpool could and probably should be behind here, as the corner breaks to Kerzhakov who sees his low shot turned improbably away by Pepe Reina from point blank range. Down the other end, Luis Suarez latches on to a nicely floated long ball from Glen Johnson, ghosts past his marker, and side foots inches wide. A lively start!
The team are out, handshakes are done, and we're off. Early corner for the hosts after Danny breaks down the left.
In Danny, Hulk and Axel Witsel, Zenit boast three £30m-plus players in their starting line-up. Liverpool's only ever £30m-plus player is currently reclining on his sofa and running his fingers through his mane, with eleven days until his next fixture, when West Ham host Tottenham.
So, Mr Rodgers has named almost as strong a side as is available to him, with perhaps only Agger and Lucas the first-choice players left out of tonight's XI by choice. Liverpool needs a big performance - and indeed a result - after Monday's shenanigans against West Brom. ITV's Peter Drury has just described that Liverpool performance as "good", which means he and I must have been watching different games.
Liverpool starting XI: Reina; Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel, Enrique; Allen, Henderson, Gerrard; Sterling, Suarez, Downing. Subs: Jones, Coates, Lucas, Borini, Shelvey, Suso, Wisdom.
Zenit starting XI: Malafeev; Anyukov, Lombaerts, Luis Neto, Hubocan, Shirokov, Denisov, Witsel, Danny, Kerzhakov, Hulk. Subs: Zhevnov, Rodic, Lukovic, Fayzulin, Semak, Evseev, Djordjevic.
Good afternoon all, and welcome to Goal.com's live Play-by-Play coverage of Liverpool's trip to Zenit St Petersburg. I'm Alex Hess, and I'll be taking you through today's game. The team news is in and will follow shortly...
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