Diego Demme and Marcel Sabitzer scored the goals as RB Leipzig moved a step closer to qualifying for the UEFA Champions League last 16 with a deserved 2-0 win away to Zenit Saint Petersburg.
Zenit Saint Petersburg 0-2 RB Leipzig
Goals: 0-1 Demme (45+5'), 0-2 Sabitzer (63')
Leipzig arrived in Russia buoyed by a back-to-back 6-1 and 8-0 wins over Wolfsburg and Mainz respectively. Leading scorer Timo Werner had registered five goals and as many assists in those games alone, but was among the substitutes when play got under way at the Krestovsky Stadium. That didn't stop Julian Nagelsmann's side stamping their authority all over the contest, though. Konrad Laimer fired off the first shot of note, before Marcel Halstenberg had the ball in the net in the 14th minute, only for the goal to be ruled out for a handball against Christopher Nkunku following a VAR review. Zenit goalkeeper Mikhail Kerzhakov saved well from Emil Forsberg, but could do nothing to stop Demme's thunderous effort in first-half added time.
Nkunku tested Kerzhakov as Leipzig picked up in the second half where they left off, but it wasn't until the introduction of Werner that Leipzig were able to ram home their dominance and extend their lead. The Germany striker had only been on the pitch a matter of minutes when he combined with Forsberg to play in Sabitzer, who took one touch to set himself before slotting home with aplomb. Peter Gulacsi saved brilliantly from Sardar Azmoun and Yordan Osorio either side of Sabitzer's goal, but Leipzig were more than good value for the win. The Bundesliga club now head Group G on nine points from four matches, and could book their place in the last 16 for the first time in their history with victory at home to Benfica on 27 November.
- This was Leipzig's first Champions League clean sheet in their history at the 10th attempt. They are competing in the competition for the second time, having only been promoted to the Bundesliga in 2016.
- Nagelsmann failed to win any of his group games as Hoffenheim coach last season, but has overseen three Champions League victories from four at the Leipzig helm.
- Demme scored only his second Leipzig goal in 205 first-team appearances.
- Sabitzer has netted eight goals in 16 competitive appearances for Leipzig in 2019/20.
- Leipzig have never lost to Zenit in four meetings (W3, D1), and it is the Russian champions who Leipzig have beaten in major European competitions more than any other team. This was their first win over Zenit in Russia.
- Zenit are winless in their last four home matches against German clubs (D1, L3), and have only won two of 10 against Bundesliga teams on home soil (D2, L6).
Zenit: Kherzhakov – Smolnikov (Karavaev 46'), Osorio, Ivanovic (c) (Driussi 70'), Rakitskiy, Santos - Ozdoev, Barrios, Erokhin (Kuzyaev 85') - Dzyuba, Azmoun
Unused subs: Vasyutin, Shatov, Zhirkov, Mak
Out: Kokorin (ineligible), Malcom (thigh), Mammana (cruciate ligament), Lunev (unknown)
Coach: Sergei Semak
Leipzig: Gulacsi – Klostermann, Mukiele, Upamecano, Halstenberg (Kampl 46') – Sabitzer, Laimer, Demme (c), Nkunku (Werner 61') - Poulsen, Forsberg (Haidara 76')
Unused subs: Mvogo, Lookman, Matheus, Ampadu
Out: Ilsanker (ineligible), Orban (knee), Wolf (ankle), Adams (match fitness), Konate (hip), Schick (ankle)
Coach: Julian Nagelsmann
As it happened!
That was a brilliant performance from Leipzig who now move five points clear at the top of Group G and are on the brink of reaching the UEFA Champions League knockout stages for the first time in their history. Diego Demme and Marcel Halstenberg provided the goals in a game they have dominated from start to finish. Thanks for joining us tonight and we'll see you next time!
90+3' FULL-TIME! ZENIT 0-2 LEIPZIG!
A thoroughly deserved and highly impressive win for Leipzig.
90+1' INTO INJURY TIME
Just three minutes of time added on.
88' A QUICK SHOUTOUT FOR UPAMECANO
The French centre-back has been immense tonight and will be up in contention for the Man of the Match award. He's the only recognised centre-half in this side and he's marshalled both the defence and Zenit's forwards with real authority. Dzyuba is an absolute handful but Upamecano has had him in his pocket. A real dominant display.
86' TIME TICKING AWAY
A highly professional performance is being maintained until the end, Leipzig now stifling their hosts who are looking to launch the ball forward at every opportunity. Not long to go.
80' FINAL 10
Just 10 minutes for Leipzig to see out but they don't seem content at just 2-0. They have been enormously impressive tonight, camped in Zenit's half for the vast majority of this game. Their dominance of possession is currently at 68 per cent, while they've had 18 shots on goal. A superb display.
76' LAST LEIPZIG CHANGE
A final sub for the visitors, Nagelsmann giving Forberg a break and bringing on Haidara in his place to sure up that midfield even further.
72' GULACSI AT HIS BEST
A stunning save from the Leipzig 'keeper, leaping to his right to tip the ball over the bar. He's not had much to do but when he's been called upon, Gulacsi has been superb.
70' A GIANT LEAP FOR LEIPZIG?
Currently, the Bundesliga outfit are headed to a first Champions League clean sheet in their history that would move them to the brink of advancing from the group stage for a first time.
63' GOAL! SABITZER!
Lovely, lovely stuff from Leipzig. Werner has only been on two minutes but he's instantly involved, laying off to Forsberg who then slips in Sabitzer with a pinpoint through ball. Sabitzer takes a touch to create the angle he needs to then slot home with aplomb.
61' TIMO TIME!
Well, we were told muscle problems were the reason behind Werner starting on the bench but the Germany international is being introduced. If you're Zenit, the last thing you want to see now is the man who bagged a hat-trick of goals AND assists at the weekend now coming on. Nkunku makes way.
57' FORSBERG FROM RANGE (AGAIN)
Forsberg keeps finding some lovely pockets of space between the Zenit defence and midfield, this time feinting to create room before having a go from outside the box but Kherzhakov handles it well. A lot of time and space out there for Leipzig to utilise.
54' CARBON COPY
This second half has started in the exact manner the first was played out: Leipzig have all the ball, while the hosts are sitting off and deep. If Leipzig can manage the rest of the game like they have so far then they should secure the win with some comfort.
50' LAIMER ON THE LEFT
The early exchanges of this second half suggest that Laimer has moved to left back. He's still pressing very high up the pitch though with Kampl and Demme happy to sit in and cover him when required.
46' KAMPL ON FOR HALSTENBERG
It's a change apiece as Kampl comes on for Halstenberg for Leipzig and Karavaev replaces Smolnikov for the hosts. We'll keep an eye on how that changes the Leipzig setup.
46' SECOND HALF UNDERWAY
The players are back out and we have a couple of changes...
That goal was thoroughly deserved, Leipzig by far the better side in that first half. Halstenberg thought he had put Nagelsmann's team in front only for his strike to be disallowed earlier in the half but via the right boot of stand-in captain Demme they have their goal right on the brink of half time. It's been an impressive performance from Leipzig thus far.
45+5' GOAL! DEMME!
What a finish that is. Sabitzer's free-kick on the edge of the box falls back to Demme who rifles through a crowd and into the far corner. That will be a sickener for Zenit but it's more than Leipzig deserve. A great strike.
45+2' SO CLOSE!
Azmoun is played in and his shot beats Gulacsi but trickles just wide of the far post. Only inches in it. That would have been cruel on Leipzig but, again, they need to be careful against this Zenit side.
42' FORSBERG AGAIN
He's closer this time, drawing a fine diving save from Kherzhakov. Leipzig managed to get in behind their hosts then, an encouraging sign with the half-time whistle beckoning.
40' FORSBERG ON TARGET
The Sweden international cuts inside and has a dig from long range but it's straight at the Zenit 'keeper. Leipzig are finding it hard to break this Zenit side down despite their dominance on the ball. They might need a bit of magic to break the Russians and they have plenty of players capable of doing just that.
33' VAR PENALTY CHECK
Well, well, well. Zenit are awarded a free kick on the edge of the Leipzig box and VAR has a look to see if it was just inside the penalty area but it's not given. That was very close. The hosts starting to warm into the game but Leipzig are still controlling the game.
30' PLAYING LIKE THE HOSTS
This was not what was expected before kick off but Leipzig have had more than 60 per cent of possession and are being allowed to dictate the tempo. Zenit aren't pressing them in midfield and just looking to counter if Leipzig over commit. It feels like a complete role reversal with Leipzig's own direct counter attacking game such a part of the club's DNA.
26' THE RUSSIAN BULL
It's safe to say Dzyuba is not a man to be messed with. He is enormous, strong as an ox and the scold he just gave his teammate for not finding him is a look that would strike fear in anyone. A fine option for next year's Halloween fancy dress parties.
21' ZENIT'S FIRST FORAY
The hosts suddenly break and Dzyuba causes all sorts of problems in the Zenit box. Eventually the ball is bundled wide by the hosts but that was a clear warning for Leipzig who have been in complete control but must be wary of that counter.
16' GOAL DISALLOWED!
The referee takes a look at the TV screen and decides Nkunku handled the ball in the build-up so the goal is chalked off. It's entirely accidental and Leipzig can feel a little aggrieved but it's very much the rules. Hits your hand, handball. We're all square again.
14' GOAL! HALSTENBERG!
Do not give Halstenberg the time and space to shoot from the edge of your area. The Germany international receives the ball on the left edge of the 18-yard box and fires home with his superb left foot. It's a great finish. We're having a look at VAR though...
7' FIRST CHANCE
A lovely exchange between Sabitzer and Laimer on the edge of the Zenit box releases the latter but, slightly off balance, he fires straight at Kherzhakov. A very good chance and yet more early encouragement for the visitors.
5' LEIPZIG START WELL
It's been a confident opening from Leipzig, looking every bit the team that has just won 8-0 at the weekend. They've begun aggressively, pushing the hosts deep into their own half already. Very positive stuff.
2' KLOSTERMANN IN THE CENTRE
Worth noting early on that Klostermann has moved inside and is starting at centre-half tonight. Mukiele moves out to the right in his stead.
1' KICK OFF
We are underway...
The players are out and that famous music is playing.
10 MINUTES TO KICK OFF
This is your 10 minute warning to kick off. Get that kettle on or something cold from the fridge, pop the snacks out and plump the cushions. Nearly go time.
A RECORD TO END
Remarkably, Zenit have won their last 14 group stage matches at home in the UEFA Europa and Champions League combined. The last team to beat them on home soil in the groups? Bayer Leverkusen, who secured a 2-1 Champions League Group C win at Zenit back in November 2014.
HISTORY ON LEIPZIG'S SIDE
Leipzig have never lost to Zenit in three meetings between these two teams (W2, D1) and it is the Russian champions who Leipzig have beaten in major European competitions more than any other team but drew 1-1 on their last trip to Saint Petersburg in the 2017/18 UEFA Europa League round of 16. Can they extend that record tonight and bag a first away win over Zenit?
ONE TO WATCH
Zenit striker Dzyuba was a revelation at Russia's home FIFA World Cup in 2018 and is Zenit’s top scorer this season with 10 goals in all competitions, including one in the Champions League win over Benfica. The likes of Mukiele and Upamecano will need to keep a trained eye on the 31-year-old tonight.
Leipzig's social media team have announced that Werner has a "muscle problem" but is clearly fit enough to make the bench. Let's call it an insurance policy and a pretty good one at that!
MORE OF THE SAME PLEASE
Leipzig won the reverse fixture 2-1 at the Red Bull Arena, a game notable for Sabitzer's absolute worldie of a goal and Nagelsmann will be hoping for more of the same tonight. A win for Leipzig tonight will further strengthen their grip on Group G, which they lead by two points ahead of their Russian counterparts and Lyon who each have four points to their name. They are both one point further ahead of Benfica who travel to France a little later on.
POULSEN TO LEAD ATTACK
With Werner among the subs, that means Poulsen will lead the line for Die Rotten Bullen tonight. Nkunku could play off of the Dane or start more from the left, while Forsberg may even partner Poulsen. We'll keep an eye on that one once we're underway.
WERNER ON THE BENCH
The big news from Russia is that Germany international Werner starts on the bench tonight with Emil Forsberg coming into the side as the only change from that 8-0 mauling of Mainz at the weekend. Werner hit a hat trick of both goals AND assists in that one so is just being given a little breather from the start by Nagelsmann.
Leipzig: Gulacsi – Klostermann, Mukiele, Upamecano, Halstenberg – Sabitzer, Laimer, Demme (c), Forsberg – Nkunku - Poulsen
Mvogo, Haidara, Werner, Lookman, Matheus, Ampadu, Kampl
Kherzhakov – Smolnikov, Osorio, Ivanovic (c), Rakitskiy - Ozdoev, Barrios, Santos - Erokhin - Dzyuba, Azmoun
Vasyutin, Driussi, Kuzyaev, Karavaev, Shatov, Zhirkov, Mak