Monaco hold Zenit in Group C stalemate

AFP

Saint Petersburg (AFP) - Zenit St Petersburg extended their unbeaten record to 15 matches in all competitions as they battled to a 0-0 draw against Monaco in Champions League Group C action on Wednesday.

The French runners-up turned in arguably their best performance of the season as they dominated large sections of the match only to come up short inside the penalty box.

Both teams move to four points with Zenit holding a one goal advantage on goal difference with Bayer Leverkusen set to host Benfica later on Wednesday after both teams suffered opening day defeats.

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At the Petrovsky Stadium, both sides had chances to win the match during a torrid second half with central defender Nicolas Lombaerts fluffing a close range header for the hosts while Belgian substitute Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco hit the post late on for Monaco.

The French side, who are off to a sluggish start in Ligue 1 action, lying 12th in the table ahead of their trip to Paris Saint-Germain on Sunday, are enjoying a fine return to Champions League action after an absence of nine years.

Zenit, who top the Russian table by four points after eight wins and a draw in nine matches, came into the fixture having won 30 of their past 48 European matches at home.

Monaco began the game brightly and took the game to their Russian hosts but despite their first half dominance, they failed to produce the goal their attacking play deserved.

Former Tottenham and Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov had a close range shot saved as early as the third minute but Zenit 'keeper Yuri Lodygin made the first of a series of important interventions.

Leonardo Jardim's side, who had won only two of their last 16 Champions League matches away from home dominated midfield thanks to the industry of captain Jeremy Toulalan, Geoffrey Kondogbia and Portuguese winger Joao Moutinho.

Playing a 4-3-3 line-up, the midfield trio provided plenty of service for Berbatov, Nabil Dirar and Argentine Lucas Ocampos who came closest to opening the scoring when his rasping drive from just inside the box, on the stroke of half-time, was tipped over by Lodygin.

English referee Mark Clattenburg allowed the game to flow and a bruising first-half saw only former Nantes and Lyon midfielder Toulalan, the lone player to be booked.

Monaco's Croatian 'keeper Danijel Subasic remained largely unemployed for the first 45 minutes although Zenit captain Danny sparked a sweeping counter-attack that culminated with a shot from Hulk that flew over the bar.

Both teams tightened up their defensive formations after the break and a game of few clear cut chances predictably ended in a draw.

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