LEVERKUSEN, Germany (AFP) – Ten-man Bayer Leverkusen went top of their Champions League group on Wednesday with a 2-0 win over Andre Villas-Boas’ Zenit St Petersburg to claim a second-straight victory.
Monaco’s goalless draw at home to Benfica means Leverkusen took over at the top of Group C, despite having lost their opening match at Monaco before beating Benfica at the BayArena.
Leverkusen’s goals came from defenders Giulio Donati and Kyriakos Papadopoulos to give them a big psychological boost ahead of the return game in the double header in St Petersburg in a fortnight.
“We are disappointed with the result and will do everything to win the next one,” said Zenit’s Belgium international Axel Witsel.
Leverkusen were forced to play the final ten minutes a man down after Brazilian left-back Wendell was sent off for a second yellow-card.
“It was a very intense and difficult game, which we had expected,” said Leverkusen coach Roger Schmidt.
“Despite the red card we fought with real passion and secured a deserved win.”
Bayer endured a frustrating goalless first-half as their attacks were snuffed out by Zenit’s defence in a dull opening 45 minutes.
But they finally got the break-through they craved when Italian defender Giulio Donati unleashed a fierce drive from outside the area on 58 minutes.
His dipping shot gave Zenit goalkeeper Yuri Lodygin no chance as it flew into the bottom left hand corner. Another goal followed five minutes later as Greece defender Papadopoulos headed home Calhanoglu’s free-kick just two minutes after coming off the bench.