MOSCOW, September 30 (RIA Novosti) - Zenit St Petersburg lost 2-1 to Real Madrid on Tuesday evening, despite outplaying the Spanish club giants for much of their Group H Champions League match.
The game began in dramatic fashion when Zenit's Slovakian defender, Tomas Hubocan, put the ball into his own net, inadvertently providing the finishing touch to a cross from Real's Rafael van der Vaart.
The game was Zenit's first ever home Champions League tie, and the Russian champions were desperate to get a good result in front of fans who had paid upwards of 5000 rubles (just under $200) a ticket.
As Zenit settled after their early shock, Andrei Arshavin and the club's record signing, Portuguese midfielder Danny, began to come more into the game, and it was the latter who eventually put the Russian side level, flicking a sublime Arshavin cross into the corner of the Real net in the 25th minute.
The scene seemed set for Zenit to take the lead, the home fans roaring their side on, but it was Real who silenced the Petrovsky stadium, Ruud van Nistelrooy pouncing on a loose ball to restore the Spanish club's advantage six minutes later.
The second half saw Zenit launch attack after attack, Arshavin first the architect of great chances for Hubocan and Konstantin Zyryanov, and then slamming a shot himself into the Real post with 15 minutes on the clock.
The Russians also had a penalty appeal turned down for handball as time ran out, and it was Arshavin who again set up Danny with minutes remaining, the Portuguese player's shot deflected inches over the bar.
The defeat means that Zenit, who lost 1-0 in Turin to Juventus two weeks ago, now face an uphill struggle to qualify for the play-off stages of the tournament. The group's other match, between Belarus champions BATE Borisov and Juventus, kicked off at 18:45 GMT.
The first two teams go through to the play-offs. The third side drops down into the UEFA Cup. Zenit's next match in the tournament is home to BATE on October 21. BATE and Juventus's match kicked in MInsk off at 18:45 GMT.
In other Russian soccer news, CSKA Moscow beat Croatian side NK Slaven Koprivnica 1-0 in the Russian capital to make the group stages of the UEFA Cup. The win followed a 2-1 victory in Croatia two weeks ago.