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Zenit St Petersburg 3-0


Celtic’s Europa League campaign ended at the first knockout hurdle as the Scottish champions succumbed to Zenit St Petersburg in their round-of-32 tie.

Branislav Ivanovic, given a free header inside the box, powered home a corner after seven minutes to level the tie.

Aleksandr Kokorin missed a great chance before Daler Kuzyaev’s swerving 25-yard shot deceived Dorus de Vries.

Tom Rogic, Olivier Ntcham and Kristoffer Ajer had efforts before Kokorin bundled home Ivanovic’s cross.

The visitors created very little on a miserable evening for Brendan Rodgers’ side after the promise of their first-leg performance.

They will now turn their attention to the pursuit of another domestic treble, resuming their Premiership campaign against Aberdeen at Pittodrie on Sunday.

Rodgers started with the same line-up that overcame Zenit 1-0 in the home leg, hoping for a similar level of performance, one that would carry some threat.

Hope can be painful and so it proved.

The imposing Krestovsky Stadium was expected to be a factor but the home crowd was far less than anticipated.

With the roof closed, that support still managed to generate a significant din, a noise that went through that roof when the home side netted early on.

Celtic’s defence was culpable. Ajer was blocked off at a corner, allowing Ivanovic an unchallenged header which flew past De Vries.

It was exactly what Celtic wished to avoid, but at that stage they remained very much in the contest.

But any sense of hope among the travelling support swiftly evaporated when Kuzyaev let fly from distance.

De Vries appeared to take a step to his right but the ball turned to his left, straight into the centre of the goal.

Jozo Simunovic shows his frustration after Zenit score their second goal
Celtic defender Jozo Simunovic shows his frustration after Zenit score their second goal

He seemed at fault but was not alone, Kuzyaev’s chance developing from a simple throw-in.

After half an hour, it looked a familiar European script away from home. Rodgers’ side could not muster anywhere near the level of pressure they did at Celtic Park, with goalkeeper Andrei Lunev largely untested despite the visitors enjoying a healthy share of possession.

Too often passes went sideways with Scott Brown operating very deep. There were few runs down the channels. Callum McGregor could not get beyond Moussa Dembele as he did to such effect in the first leg. James Forrest looked more like a right-back than the impressive threat he has been this season.

Zenit were, in contrast, far more effective than seven days ago, more like the side that was billed as favourites.

They were quick to attack and support Anton Zabolotny. Without the ball, they regrouped and were compact. They were far from outstanding but did not have to be.

Rodgers tinkered at half-time with Rogic introduced for Eboue Kouassi. The Australian immediately shot at goal but it sailed way over.

Aleksandr Kokorin peels away after scoring Zenit's third goal
Celtic’s defence was breached too easily again for Zenit’s third goal

Celtic were better – Ntcham sending in a low shot, Ajer heading wide from a corner – but still lacked threat in the final third.

At 2-0 down, a goal would have turned the tie completely in Celtic’s favour.

But as Rodgers prepared to introduce Scott Sinclair in search of a precious away goal, Zenit inflicted the decisive blow.

Ivanovic crossed from the right flank, Mikael Lustig dallied and Kokorin tapped home at the back post. It was all too simple and effectively decided the outcome.

Defensive errors proved costly after the promise of the first leg.

To progress further in Europe, it is an area that Celtic will have to address.

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