LISBON, Portugal (AP) – Hulk and Axel Witsel scored first-half goals to give Zenit St Petersburg a 2-0 win against 10-man Benfica in their opening Champions League Group C game Tuesday.
Hulk put Zenit ahead in the fifth minute. The Brazilian striker was unmarked on the right when he received a pass from Oleg Shatov before curling the ball past Artur. Hulk almost got another five minutes later with a thundering free kick that Artur struggled to hold.
The Benfica goalkeeper was sent off in the 18th minute after obstructing Danny on the break, and Witsel extended Zenit’s lead with a glancing header at the front post in the 22nd minute the visitor capitalised on their man advantage.
Zenit, the Russian league leader with seven wins from seven, looked more dominant than its Portuguese opponent.
Benfica, the defeated Europa League finalist in the past two seasons, didn’t give up the fight despite playing with 10 men for more than an hour. Luisao almost pulled one back for Benfica with a powerful header from a 59th minute free kick, demanding a keen save from Yuri Lodygin, and Lima’s shot was cleared off the Zenit line by Nicolas Lombaerts in the 66th.