Three exquisite goals, the pick from Marcel Sabitzer, gave fans of both sides their money's worth as RB Leipzig fought back to bag victory. Julian Nagelsmann's side go top of the table after three matches played.
Traumtore. The Germans say it best sometimes and this game will be remembered by both sets of fans for its "dream goals". The teamsheets suggested there may be fireworks, but gave no indication of the quality lying in wait. Marcel Sabitzer's goal, in particular, will live long in the memory of Leipzig fans; an exquisite, delicate half-volley posted beyond the oustretched fingertips of Mikhail Kerzhakov to win the tie.
Leipzig lined up in a conventional 4-4-2, with Ademola Lookman – recruited on a permanent basis in the summer following a positive loan spell last season – partnering Timo Werner in attack on his first start of the campaign. Nagelsmann evidently had a battle plan, one involving dropping quick, nimble strikers deep behind Russian lines.
Zenit captain Branislav Ivanovic – a defender far too grizzled to be deceived by such a simple strategy – simply ordered a retreat. Zenit sat deep and allowed Leipzig to dominate possession in their half. The final stats card showed 65 per cent of the play was Leipzig’s but it felt like more.
Midway through the first half, however, came a setback - the last thing you want to do against a team intent on battening down the hatches is concede. Yaroslav Rakitskiy’s hammer blow arrived from nowehere, the Ukrainian defender driving a cleared corner into the net with nuclear force. Okay, Leipzig, let’s see what you’re made of.
Nagelsmann should be commended for continuing to trust what he felt was a winning formula. Leipzig were still making - and missing - clear cut chances but the temptation must have been to introduce Yussef Poulsen at half-time, especially when Werner was removed. As it happens, the Dane was only subbed-on in the 69th minute, with the game already back in Leipzig’s favor; his muscle and energy deemed more useful in protecting a win than chasing one.
The Bundesliga side’s first goal might not have been as jaw-dropping as their winner but it’ll have pleased Nagelsmann more. Four passes culminated in an angled finish from Konrad Laimer, whose smart dummy in the build-up had Zenit’s defense reeling. It was a fantastic, bamboozling team goal and, arriving as it did in the 49th minute, took pressure off Leipzig as the search for a winner commenced.
It was swoon-worthy when it arrived ten minutes later. Marcel Sabitzer found himself with space to shoot from the corner of the penalty area, and deftly cut through the back of his volley to send it spinning, almost in slow motion, into the top corner of the Zenit net.
The goal means Leipzig leapfrog Zenit, with three matches played. The memories of that 2-0 away defeat to Lyon in the previous round of fixtures have been banished as Nagelsmann’s side’s bid to qualify for the knockout rounds took a thrilling boost.