Spalletti’s men see off their old Soviet rivals in a game that lacked the flair of the sides’ encounter two weeks ago in Ukraine
Zenit St Petersburg overcame Shakhtar Donetsk to win 1-0 at the Petrovsky Stadium and move to the top of Champions League Group G.
Nicolas Lombaerts' first-half header on the stroke of half-time was enough to seal the three points in Russia, and move ahead of APOEL at the summit of the section.
Both sides started the match quietly and it was the Portuguese star Danny who came closest for the hosts early on with a long range effort that was blocked by Czech centre-back Tomas Hubschmann.
There were penalty shouts at both ends, with Aleksandr Bukharov going down in the Shakhtar area and Alex Teixeira appealing after he felt he was tripped, but the referee was right in denying their claims.
Zenit began to take control as the first half continued and only a fine double save from Rybka denied Denisov and Konstantin Zyryanov from giving the Russians the leade.
Danny continued to follow on from his impressive performance a fortnight ago, but his shot from a tight angle struck the post as the pressure mounted on Shakhtar. The in-form Rybka then continued his fine goalkeeping display when he reacted swiftly to hook the ball past the post, after Danny’s smart chip found Bukharov’s head just outside the six-yard box.
The game looked to be heading into half-time a stalemate, until Zenit won a corner in injury time. Viktor Fayzulin’s inswinging cross found the marauding Belgian centre-back Lombaerts, who headed past a helpless Rybka. It was a cruel blow for the Ukrainian, who had, undoubtedly, been Shakhtar’s best player on the pitch.
Shakhtar had more of a presence as the second-half began, but still lacked the attacking prowess they demonstrated in the home tie between the two sides. The opening 25 minutes saw limited opportunities, with most of the play taking place in a midfield battle.
Zenit should have finished off the game in the minute when Danny broke away inside the Shakhtar half and played a well-timed ball to Bukharov, but the striker wastefully blasted high over the bar. The men from Donetsk were unable to respond, and in the end Zenit deserved their win.
Shakhtar go into the next game against Porto in Ukraine, desperately in need of a win to stand any chance of qualifying from the group. A victory at home for Zenit in two weeks’ time against Cypriot outfit APOEL would almost guarantee the Russian side qualification to the knockout stages.