After a goalless first half, Guilio Donati opened the scoring for the hosts with a fierce low drive from distance, before substitute Kyriakos Papadopoulos doubled Leverkusen’s advantage with a powerful header. Bayer were reduced to ten men with twelve minutes remaining after Wendell was shown a second yellow card, but the hosts held on to capitalise on AS Monaco FC's stalemate with SL Benfica.
Little goalmouth action
Unsurprisingly perhaps, Leverkusen head coach Roger Schmidt made two changes to the backline that conceded three second-half goals in Saturday’s thrilling draw with VfB Stuttgart, bringing in full-backs Wendell and Guilio Donati in place of Roberto Hilbert and Tin Jedvaj. The Werkself defence had to be on their toes early on, with Hulk and Danny particularly threatening in the opening stages.
Goalscoring opportunities were few and far between, however, with both sides restricted to efforts from distance. Hulk saw a long-range free-kick strike the Leverkusen wall, before Heung-Min Son’s powerful effort was blocked by the retreating Zenit defence at the other end. Bayer slowly started to exert some authority as the half wore on, but failed to fashion a clear sight of goal before the interval.
Schmidt’s charges were relentless in turning the screw at the beginning of the second half and were rewarded for their efforts just before the hour-mark when Donati took aim from 25 yards, planting an unstoppable shot into the bottom right-hand corner of Yuri Lodygin’s goal. It was 2-0 five minutes later as Kyriakos Papadopolous, who had replaced Emir Spahic moments after Donati’s opener, powered a bullet header into the back of the net from Calhanoglu’s teasing free-kick.
Brazilian Wendell was dismissed with ten minutes remaining for a second bookable offence, but the Rhinelanders held firm in the closing stages to record their second straight victory in Europe’s premier club competition, leapfrogging both AS Monaco FC and SL Benfica to move top of the group after three matches.
Leverkusen: Leno - Donati, Toprak, Spahic (Papadopoulos 60'), Wendell - L. Bender, Reinartz - Bellarabi (Brandt 85'), Calhanoglu (Jedvaj 82'), Son - Kießling
Zenit: Lodygin - Anjukow, Garay, Lombaerts, Criscito - Javi Garcia, Witsel (Kerzhakov 82') - Danny, Faisulin (Shatov 62') Hulk - Rondon
Goals: 1-0 Donati (58'), 2-0 Papadopoulos (63')
Red card: Wendell (78')