RB Leipzig with first leg victory but late strike gives Zenit St Petersburg hope | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 08.03.2018
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RB Leipzig with first leg victory but late strike gives Zenit St Petersburg hope

Timo Werner created one goal and scored another as RB Leipzig beat Zenit St Petersburg 2-1 in their Europa League last-16 first leg. But a late free-kick gave Zenit St Petersburg a valuable away goal.

In an entertaining encounter in a half-empty Red Bull Arena in Leipzig, Werner brilliantly assisted Bruma for the opening goal just before the hour mark, before running onto Naby Keita's through-ball to double RB's lead himself.  

But Domenico Criscito's late free-kick gave Roberto Mancini's visitors a precious away goal to take back to Russia next week. 

Leipzig dominate first half

Despite the home team's dominance in terms of possession and territory in the first half, the Russians nevertheless posed a threat on the break in the opening stages.

But, two dangerous crosses from Zenit captain Criscito aside – one of which was worryingly spilled by Peter Gulacsi – they failed to score the early away goal that Italian coach Roberto Mancini was hoping for.

Instead, they sat back and Leipzig began to increase the tempo. The first piece of quick combination play saw Werner shoot high and wide from the left hand side of the box, before Diego Demme's solo run into the box was halted by the massed Russian defense.

With half-time approaching, Emil Forsberg struck a well-hit free kick against the post – the closest Leipzig had come – but the first half ended goalless.

Fußball Europa League RB Leipzig - Zenit St. Petersburg (Imago/Picture Point LE/S. Sonntag)

Bruma puts RB Leipzig ahead after neat build-up play involving Timo Werner

Reward and revenge

Ralph Hasenhüttl's side were rewarded for their efforts in the second half when Bruma, Werner and Keita combined to put the Red Bull outfit 2-0 up. But with clock ticking down, Zenit found the vital away goal that had eluded them in the first half. 

Dayot Upamecano brought down Alexander Kokorin on the edge of the box and Criscito lined up the resulting free-kick 20 yards from goal. Forsberg had hit the post for Leipzig from a similar position earlier on but the Italian went one better, curling a perfectly-placed effort into the top corner. 

Marcel Sabitzer came close to restoring RB's two-goal lead with the final kick of the game but it remained 2-1 - a win, but a win which will also give Zenit hope.

Like Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig will also travel to their return leg without vocal support. Not due to any boycott, but because the planned club trip was cancelled due to lack of interest.