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Zenit hammer Bayern to reach UEFA Cup final

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Russian champions Zenit turned on the style in St. Petersburg on Thursday evening to crush the German giants Bayern Munich 4-0 and progress to the final of the UEFA Cup.
ST. PETERSBURG, May 2 (RIA Novosti) - Russian champions Zenit turned on the style in St. Petersburg on Thursday evening to crush the German giants Bayern Munich 4-0 and progress to the final of the UEFA Cup.

After drawing 1-1 in Munich a week ago, Zenit went into second leg the favorites, but nothing could have prepared the side's fans for either the performance or the result at Petrovsky stadium on Russia's Spring and Labor public holiday.

Despite having lost a number of key players to either injury or suspension, including their captain and star, Andrey Arshavin, Zenit left the four times champions of Europe and current Bundesliga leaders with little chance, opening the scoring as early as the 4th minute, Pavel Pogrebnyak cracking a free kick past veteran German keeper Oliver Kahn.

A star-studded Bayern side boasting Luca Toni, Miroslav Klose and Franck Ribery fought back, but Zenit's defense held out, and in the 39th minute a moment of Brazilian-like genius by Konstantin Zyrianov set the Russian international free in Bayern's box and he slotted the ball home for goal number two.

The second half again saw Bayern unable to make progress in the Zenit box, and the Russian under 21 star Viktor Fayzulin headed home goal number three in the 54th minute. The already scarcely believable score entered the realms of fantasy football with just 17 minutes left to play, Pogrebnyak casually booting home Zenit's fourth following some fine build up play by his teammates. The goal was his tenth of the tournament, and brought him level with Toni as the 2007/08 UEFA Cup top scorer.

Zenit kept the pressure on, and threatened to get a fifth against a clearly shell-shocked Bayern. In fact, they may have tried just a little too hard, Pogrebnyak earning a needless yellow card that will rule him out of the final in Manchester against Zenit manager Dick Advocaat's former club, Glasgow Rangers, on May 14.

Russian football, backed by oligarchs and energy giants, has been enjoying something of a boom of late, and Zenit's mauling of Bayern on Thursday night is sure to raise its profile even more.

Aside from Bayern, Zenit have beaten Bayer Leverkusen, Marseille, and Villarreal in the knock- out stages. "We've come so far, gone through against such strong teams, and this shows we can win in the final," said Advocaat after the victory over Bayern, adding that, "We were unbelievable today. I've never seen anything like it before."

The side's fans, not to mention Russian energy giant Gazprom, which finances the club, will be hoping that he is right and that Zenit can become the second Russian team, after CSKA Moscow in 2005, to lift the UEFA Cup in the last four years.

Even before the identity of Zenit's opponents was settled, Bayern's manager, Ottmar Hitzfield, was sure that Zenit would be the favorites going into the final.

"Any side that beats Bayern 4-0 is always going to be the favorite," he commented after the game.

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