RB Leipzig took an important step in their maiden European campaign by defeating Zenit Saint Petersburg 2-1 in first leg of their UEFA Europa League Round of 16 tie. The hosts looked set for a comfortable margin, but the visitors rescued a surprise away goal late on.
RB Leipzig 2-1 Zenit Saint Petersburg
Goals: Bruma 1-0 (56'), Werner 2-0 (77'), Criscito 2-1 (86')
The hosts did not waste time and took control of the match right from the start. Although Zenit looked organised at the back and prevented Leipzig from developing their build-up play into concrete chances, the Bulls were clearly the more dangerous side in the first half. However, their best opportunity to open the scoring did not come from open play, but from two set piece situations. Emil Forsberg first hit the woodwork with a long range effort and later Timo Werner almost scored following a cheeky play with Forsberg, playing it short to their teammates instead of going for goal.
In the second half, Leipzig put their foot on the gas pedal and were soon rewarded for their efforts. In the 59th minute, Werner played a deep ball off his heel for Bruma on the left wing, who did not hesitate to put away the first goal of the night. With a lead in hand, the Bulls did not relax and continued knocking on Zenit’s door. In the 77th minute, Werner caught a through ball from Naby Keita and lobbed it past goalkeeper Andrey Lunev to make it 2-0. In the closing minutes of the game, Zenit were granted their biggest chance with a dangerous free-kick just outside the box. Their captain, Domenico Criscito did not forgive Leipzig’s mistake and scored a crucial away goal to keep the tie wide open.
- Leipzig, who are competing in the Europa League after finishing third in UEFA Champions League Group G, are enjoying their debut season of European football.
- Hasenhüttl's troupe faced Russian opposition for the first time.
- Timo Werner is Leipzig's leading scorer in Europe this season with six goals (three in the Champions League, three in the Europa League).
- Augustin has opened the scoring four times for Leipzig this term.
- Zenit's European record against German teams reads: W5, D3, L9.
- Zenit defender Branislav Ivanovic was part of the Chelsea side that beat Bayern Munich in the final of the 2011/12 Champions League.
Leipzig: Gulacsi – Laimer (Bernardo, 46'), Orban (c), Upamecano, Klostermann – Forsberg, Demme, Keita, Bruma (Sabitzer, 75') – Augustin (Poulsen, 79'), Werner
Unused subs: Mvogo, Konate, Ilsanker, Kaiser
Absentees: Halstenberg (knee)
Coach: Ralph Hasenhüttl
Zenit: Lunev – Ivanovic, Mammana, Criscito (c), Mevlja – Erokhin, Kuzyaev, Kranevitter – Zabolotny (Driussi, 57'), Rigoni (Poloz, 80'), Kokorin
Unused subs: Lodygin, Zhirkov, Smolnikov, Pletnev, Skrobotov
Absentees: Paredes (suspended)
Coach: Roberto Mancini