Zenit St Petersburg v Celtic: Europa League second leg – as it happened

Nick Ames on 22 February 2018

So Zenit go through after a very controlled, consummate, professional performance in all areas. Celtic, you’d have to say, just did not turn up – they were so flat, didn’t really create a chance in the entire game and totally undid the fine work of last week. There’ll be an inquest into this one back home, I’m sure. For now, I’m off – but head over to Michael Butler’s MBM of Arsenal v Ostersund if you’d like to continue the Europa League jamboree:

Full-time: Zenit 3-0 Celtic (3-1 on aggregate)

That just did not happen for Celtic, or look like happening for Celtic, at any point in the evening. They exit the Europa League with a whimper.

90+1 min: We are now in the midst of three added minutes.

The Zenit fans enjoy the evening.
The Zenit fans enjoy the evening. Photograph: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters


89 min: Almost a chance for Sinclair after good persistence in the box from Simunovic, but he can’t get it under his spell and Celtic only have a few minutes of this non-performance to go.

87 min: A third Zenit change, with the excellent Ivanovic – who started all this off tonight – coming off to a standing ovation. On comes Smolnikov to see things out.


85 min: Tierney does find some space now to drive in a dangerous cross, but Mammana clears ahead of Musonda. It wouldn’t be a gross exaggeration to say that is the most threatening situation Celtic have contrived.

84 min: Rigoni goes off for Zenit, Driussi replaces him.

83 min: It’s not been a cracker for the reasons mentioned two entries below – Zenit have kept Celtic far at arm’s length and have taken all their chances, really, bar that early one for Kokorin.

Frustration for Brendan Rodgers as his team underperform.
Frustration for Brendan Rodgers as his team underperform. Photograph: Pavel Golovkin/AP


Our Scotland correspondent may have a point ...

80 min: Zenit, as I said earlier, don’t look especially spectacular but I can’t remember an important mistake they have made in the game. They’ve been clinical at both ends; superbly drilled and compact.

78 min: Dembele looks uncomfortable – I mean, he has all evening but this time he seems to have a knock. Celtic have made all three changes though so he will soldier on, come what may.

76 min: Mancini brings Erokhin on for Zabolotny, who has been a pest and is applauded warmly. “Warmly” is not the word to apply to the throng of shirtless Zenit fans the camera pans towards.

74 min: Celtic are having all of the ball now and Musonda tees up Sinclair, who dribbles one into Lunev’s arms from 20 yards. Rigoni steers wide at the other end.

71 min: Sinclair looks busy and Celtic will absolutely curse the timing of that third goal, because he was ready to come on and might have caused some serious flutters at 2-0. Here comes a third change, Musonda replacing Forrest – who has been by far Celtic’s brightest attacking player, not that this is to say anything much.

69 min: Sinclair feeds Rogic in nicely and that’s another shot on target! But Rogic’s angled strike is straight at Lunev, who isn’t really tested even if it improves the stats.

68 min: Rodgers will be so disappointed unless something changes dramatically. Celtic were so fired up in the first leg but here they have not laid a glove on Zenit at either end of the pitch. Not a glove. Ntcham finally manages a shot on target, straight at Lunev, but the point remains.

66 min: Celtic pass laboriously, Zenit close out the space, pass is telegraphed, move breaks down, repeat to fade.

63 min: Now Sinclair comes on, but Celtic need something remarkable now. You’d be stunned to see them score twice here on this evidence.

Goal! Zenit 3-0 Celtic (Kokorin 61)

Scott Sinclair is waiting to come on and Celtic look like going for this ... but, oh, it’s probably too late now! Simunovic half-clears a cross from the right, Zenit mutedly appealing for a penalty, but play continues and the ball is played back in. Lustig totally switches off and allows Kokorin to get a run on him, bundling in at the far post and probably securing Zenit the tie!

Zenit’s Aleksandr Kokorin celebrates scoring the third from close range.
Zenit’s Aleksandr Kokorin celebrates scoring the third from close range. Photograph: Pavel Golovkin/AP


58 min: Dembele makes something stick to him, which draws encouraging applause from Rodgers, but the move fizzles out. Lots of fans are now doing that annoying thing with their phone lights.

56 min: Forrest gets away from Criscito and it’s a painfully rare example of Celtic exposing Zenit. But he has to make do with a corner as the cross is poor. It’s aimed in well by Tcham and Ajer is up there first ... but bounces his header harmlessly wide.

55 min: Zenit maraud, and Simunovic cuts out a Kuzyaev cross. Paredes then tries to set up a spectacular volley but the ball won’t come down in time for him to pull that one off.

53 min: Celtic’s early lustre, such as it was, has faded rather. But they still have time. They only need to make, and take, one chance. Zenit are happy to sit off them here.

52 min: “How I miss Branner Ivanovic,” laments Ian Burch. “His decline from being a slightly clumsy Premier League winning titan at right back for Chelsea to being just plain old clumsy in the space of just a few months was something to behold. I always loved the innocent, bemused look on his face whenever he was penalised for trampling on the ankles of some poor opposing wide player. He might well be past his best, but he still knows had to use his noggin at set pieces, Celtic’s defenders obviously forgot that he’s headed the winning goal in the final of this competition. Get up there big man.”

49 min: And they have another shot, the ball being worked well to Ntcham for a disappointing 20-yard effort dragged wide. But still, the intent seems far greater.

46 min: Immediately they have a shot, and it’s from Rogic 25 yards out. It goes harmlessly over but that’s instantly much better – they didn’t have a single goal attempt in the first half.

Peeeeeep! Celtic get us back underway

And they’ve bought Rogic on for the disappointing Kouassi, which might add rather more forward thrust.

“Just got off the phone talking to my son in Helsinki ... minus 17 tonight. Up the Hoops!” writes Nicholas Alvarez. Brrrrr!

Other half-times (agg in brackets):

Sporting 1-1 Astana (4-2)

RB Leipzig 0-1 Napoli (3-2)

Plzen 0-0 Partizan Belgrade (1-1)

Lazio 3-0 FCSB (3-1)

Dynamo Kyiv 0-0 AEK (1-1)

Atletico Madrid 1-0 FC Copenhagen (5-1)

Villarreal 0-0 Lyon (1-3)

Atletico’s Kevin Gameiro celebrates after scoring the only goal during the first half in Madrid.
Atletico’s Kevin Gameiro celebrates after scoring the only goal during the first half in Madrid. Photograph: Denis Doyle/Getty Images


Half-time: Zenit 2-0 Celtic

A booking for Dembele, followed by a late challenge by the already-booked Kuzyaev that comes just after the whistle and thus goes unpunished, rounds off a pretty miserable half. Celtic have conceded two poor goals against a Zenit side that doesn’t look particularly special, and they’ve not offered a single thing in attack themselves. On the plus side, they still only need one goal to go through – and surely Rodgers will get them attacking in the second period? Catch you shortly.


45 min: It’s dealt with and that might be that for the half, but Celtic really look jittery at the back here.

43 min: Paredes swings a free-kick in but Dembele heads away; the pressure is maintained and Tierney is incorrectly adjudged to have conceded a corner on that right side. Dembele, again, heads away from right under the post. The ball is returned to Criscito at the back stick but he miskicks completely – although another corner does result.


41 min: Forrest and Dembele try and work some magic around the edge of the box but Kouassi, for far from the first time, gives the ball away when it’s spirited in his direction.

40 min: Ajer has to chest a teasing Criscito cross behind with Rigoni lurking behind him. Can Celtic defend this right-sided corner rather better than the first? Just about, although Zabolotny is still allowed to win the first header at the near post.

39 min: Ivanovic hurls in a long throw; Ajer misses it but a friendly head behind him deals with the danger. Half-time would be a good thing for Celtic now.

36 min: Kouassi is booked for fouling Criscito – I think that was a cumulative thing more than anything else.

35 min: It’s just a bit slow from Celtic, they’re not moving the ball quickly enough and they aren’t really getting past a compact Zenit bloc at all. If it stays this way, could be see Scott Sinclair or Charly Musonda after the break?

32 min: Celtic are seeing a lot of the ball now and will undoubtedly continue to. But they haven’t had a shot yet. They need some penetration from somewhere.

30 min: Of course, one more for Celtic can still win the tie. But they have to force it now and Zenit, who are at their best on the counter, can work this to their own liking.

Goal! Zenit 2-0 Celtic (Kuzyaev 27)

Now it gets harder. What a hit from Kuzyaev – or perhaps what an error from De Vries! Zabolotny neatly lays off a throw-in to Kuzyaev, who brings the ball inside and cracks one from 30 yards. It’s well struck, it’s moving all over the place, but in the end it’s down the goalkeeper’s throat. He seems to totally misjudge it and, although he perhaps gets a touch, the ball races past him and into the roof of the net! This counts, now, as a nightmare start for Celtic.

Zenit players surround Daler Kuzyayev after he scored his side’s second.
Zenit players surround Daler Kuzyayev after he scored his side’s second. Photograph: Pavel Golovkin/AP


25 min: And don’t forget, if Celtic do score next then Zenit have to score twice. The away goal really does count double. So there is no need to panic.

23 min: Celtic are, for the first time, putting some calming possession together but play is halted when Zabolotny goes down, seemingly winded, after clashing with Brown. There were arms flailing off the ball there and if anything I think the Zenit forward was the aggressor. Either way, he’s paying for it with a spot of treatment.

21 min: Forrest mugs Kuzayev and has open grass to surge into beyond halfway. Paredes knows what he’s doing in taking a yellow card – even though it also means he misses the next game if Zenit go through.

19 min: It’s a good effort, meatily struck, but one of those that’s not quite coming down quickly enough.

18 min: McGregor treads on Paredes’s ankle some 25 yards out after sloppy play by Kouassi (the teamsheet below says “Eboue” but from hereon we’ll call him Kouassi like the commentators). Paredes stands over it ...

16 min: Celtic look vulnerable to balls over the top at the moment; Zenit have developed a little bit of a swagger in the meantime.

13 min: Oh, Kokorin has to do better there. He runs through towards goal after Lustig played Brown into a spot of bother, but doesn’t seem to trust his own pace and steers a tame shot into De Vries’s arms from about 20 yards. Another couple of strides and that’s a golden chance; Celtic have been let off.

12 min: Good from Tierney, who gets past Ivanovic but sees his centre cut out. That was a positive early sign though: if they can feed Tierney more often then it seems as if he has the beating of the older player.

Celtic’s Kieran Tierney crosses the ball under pressure from Branislav Ivanovic.
Celtic’s Kieran Tierney crosses the ball under pressure from Branislav Ivanovic. Photograph: Pavel Golovkin/AP


11 min: Forrest takes a high boot from Kuzyaev on the right flank. It’s a booking and rightly so, he took one to the chin there and will have been pretty painful.

9 min: What a frustration that is for Celtic, who have basically conceded from Zenit’s first incursion. The next goal is so important now.

Ivanovic celebrates scoring that early goal to level the tie.
Ivanovic celebrates scoring that early goal to level the tie. Photograph: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters


Goal! Zenit 1-0 Celtic (Ivanovic 8)

It’s all square, and it’s the birthday boy! Ivanovic loves attacking a set piece and he does exactly that – the ball is delivered from the right and, rising above a static Simunovic, he thumps home a colossal header into the top corner!

Branislav Ivanovic rises above Simunovic to head home.
Branislav Ivanovic rises above Simunovic to head home. Photograph: Pavel Golovkin/AP


7 min: “Can’t beat SPb for cold as it’s only -12 down the road here in Tallinn. Though forecast for -25 next week, which is a bit nippy. Saturday is the country’s (Estonia’s) 100th birthday party but they’re worried the bands won’t be able to play because of the cold. Freezes lips to trumpets apparently. Hope Celtic haven’t brought a version of England’s Billy the Trumpeter tonight,” writes Robin Hazlehurst, hopefully from a sauna or in front of a log fire.

Meanwhile Zenit show, at last, and Paredes has a low shot turned round by De Vries. It’s a corner, from which ...

5 min: No alarms for Celtic yet, and in fact it’s been fairly scrappy with neither side really showing much aptitude to string things together. If they’re as defensively focused as they were in the first leg, you’d give them a big chance.

2 min: Celtic start well, on the front foot, and Dembele gets possession on the edge of the box but can’t turn Mevlja. How well they retain possession, usually such a skill of theirs, will be important in denying Zenit much rhythm here.

Peeeeep! Away we go!

Zenit, kicking right to left, get us going.

If Zenit win here than that’ll be three Russian clubs in the last 16, with the outside chance of Spartak Moscow making it four later. They do like this competition in that part of the world.

Meanwhile, they’re on their way out onto the pitch in St Petersburg. It is, according to Rodgers, “like a spring evening” inside the stadium itself even if the chill outside is bitter ...

Joy for another Russian team – Lokomotiv Moscow have just won, impressively, 4-2 on aggregate against Nice.

Rodgers speaks: “At this level it’s important you don’t make mistakes and then have that confidence to stay calm. It’s a great arena, the pitch is absolutely perfect, it’s a great opportunity for us.”

Today’s match is being played at the Krestovsky Stadium, which is going to host World Cup games right through to the semi-finals. I went to several Confederations Cup games there; it’s very nice indeed although they haven’t been without issues there. Whether it’s been the pitch or the roof, the world’s reportedly-most-expensive stadium has had some teething problems and taken a long time to get off the ground – but I can confirm it is very nice, even if the lifts were somewhat confusing last summer. There is a very nice fairground just outside, too.


Zenit St Petersburg: Lunev, Ivanovic, Mammana, Criscito, Mevlja, Kranevitter, Rigoni, Paredes, Kuzyaev, Kokorin, Zabolotny. Subs: Lodygin, Terentjev, Poloz, Driussi, Zhirkov, Smolnikov, Erokhin.

Celtic: De Vries, Tierney, Ajer, Simunovic, Lustig, Ntcham, Brown, Eboue, McGregor, Forrest, Dembele. Subs: Bain, Hendry, Sinclair, Rogic, Edouard, Miller, Musonda.

Say happy birthday to Branislav Ivanovic, 34 today and celebrating by returning to Mancini’s team. Celtic make seven changes from the side that drew with St Johnstone, but that makes it the same team that started the first leg. They’ve never lost in Russia, you know ...


It is currently -13 degrees centigrade in St Petersburg, and only getting colder. What a heartwarmer for Celtic it would be, though, if they could hold onto – or even add to – the slender first leg lead they established at home. Win this tie and they will be on course for their best Europa League finish since 2003-04, when they reached the quarter-finals – a feat they carried out a year after finishing runners-up in the competition. Fending off Zenit on their own turf, in such harsh conditions, would be an enormous tonic and a real statement that they can make a deep run into the competition this time around.

Of course, this is a meeting between two managers who might rather have thought they’d be slugging it out at the top of the Premier League at this stage of their careers. Brendan Rodgers has done a marvellous job of making a dominant Celtic side even more dominant at home while honing a style sustainable enough to hold their own in Europe; Roberto Mancini has had an up and down time of things with Zenit, who are eight points behind Russian Premier League leaders Lokomotiv Moscow at the mid-season break, and may find himself coming under some real pressure if they are eliminated here.

All to play for, then – and while they do that out there, we can hang out in the warmth of ... wherever we all are. Do write in with your thoughts and feelings. Are YOU watching from anywhere even colder than St Petersburg?

Nick will be here shortly. In the meantime you can remind yourself what happened in the first leg at Celtic Park …

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