x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Van the man for Madrid

Ruud van Nistelrooy scores the winning goal to give Real Madrid a 2-1 victory over Zenit St Petersburg in Russia.

Ruud van Nistelrooy after scoring what proved to be the winning goal for Real Madrid against Zenit St Petersburg.
Ruud van Nistelrooy after scoring what proved to be the winning goal for Real Madrid against Zenit St Petersburg.

ST PETERSBURG, RUSSIA // Ruud van Nistelrooy scored the winning goal to give Real Madrid a 2-1 victory over Zenit St Petersburg in Group H of the Champions League. The prolific Dutch striker van Nistelrooy scored with a left-foot shot in on the half-hour, ending Madrid's poor away record in the competition. The nine-time champions have not won in seven matches on the road since beating Steaua Bucharest 4-1 in Romania in October 2006.

"We scored a very important and very tough victory," the Real Madrid coach Bernd Schuster said. Los Galacticos took the lead in the fourth minute when Tomas Hubocan scored an own-goal, trying to clear Rafael van der Vaart's cross from the right. Zenit needed time to recover and started to threaten Madrid's defence down the left flank. In the 25th minute, Radek Sirl put Andrei Arshavin down the left and Danny leapt to meet the cross and beat the Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas with his right foot.

Six minutes later, van Nistelrooy capitalised on Hubocan's sloppy play in the box. "Our opponent's class showed through," Arshavin said. "They capitalised on their chances, while we had many and did not score." Zenit dominated the game in the second half and came close many times. "St Petersburg deserved a draw," Schuster said. "But for some reason in the first half, they didn't play the way we expected them to. Only after substitutions in the second half did they raise the tempo."

In the 73rd minute, the Zenit coach Dick Advocaat put in two fresh strikers - Alejandro Dominguez and Fatih Tekke. Three minutes later, Tekke forced Casillas to make a stunning save. Danny missed the host team's last chance by shooting over the crossbar in injury time. "I am really disappointed with the result," Advocaat said. Advocaat blamed his players for poor finishing. "We created an unimaginable number of chances, but couldn't score," Advocaat said. "I can't step on the pitch to do it instead of the players."

Madrid were without the core of their midfield with Wesley Sneijder, Guti and Fernando Gago. They had missed the trip to St Petersburg to recover from injuries. Schuster said he had planed to put Raul into action last night, but decided to let him rest after a tough match in the Spanish league. "It's so important that we have so many strong players in our team that we have possibility of rotating them," the German coach said. Madrid has six points from two games in Group H, while Zenit remained winless with no points. Zenit next hosts BATE Borisov on Oct 21, while Madrid visits Juventus. *AP

AaB Aalborg 0 Man Utd 3 Villarreal 1 Celtic 0 Bayern Munich 1 Lyon 1 Fiorentina 0 Steaua Bucharest 0 Arsenal 4 FC Porto 0 Fenerbahce 0 Dynamo Kiev 0 BATE Borisov 2 Juventus 2 Zenit St Petersburg 1 Real Madrid 2