Firmino fires Liverpool to Club World Cup glory

Hulk stars for Zenit in thrilling late Champions League win at Valencia


Zenit St Petersburg got their Champions League campaign off to a winning start as they recorded a 3-2 victory at Valencia in Wednesday's Group H opener.

Brazilian forward Hulk struck twice to give the visitors a 2-0 half-time lead, but Valencia reduced the arrears in the 54th minute when Joao Cancelo's shot took a heavy deflection off Axel Witsel to beat Zenit goalkeeper Yuri Lodygin.

Substitute Andre Gomes equalised in the 73rd minute, but Valencia's joy was short-lived as Witsel struck the winner three minutes later to ensure the Russian giants began their European campaign with an away victory.

Valencia, playing in Europe's elite club competition again after a two-year absence, were unlucky not to go in front within two minutes after Cancelo's right-footed shot from 30 yards beat Lodygin but rattled the left post.

Shortly after, Sofiane Feghouli's close-range header from Pablo Piatti's cross went wide.

The visitors went in front in the ninth minute against the run of play, as Danny set up Hulk in the area to strike a diagonal shot past Valencia goalkeeper Jaume.

The goal inspired Zenit and in the 29th minute -- Witsel found space just outside the area and drilled a right-footed shot that was only just kept out by Jaume, while Zenit's keeper was called on again to deny Hulk's powerful drive from 15 yards.

The hosts almost pulled level in the 43rd minute but PIatti's powerful header from Feghouli's dangerous cross was saved by Lodygin, but Zenit doubled their lead seconds before the interval.

Artyom Dzyuba found Hulk just outside the area and he struck a stunning left-footed shot to beat Jaume.

Valencia showed more determination after the restart and their pressure paid off in the 54th minute -- Lodygin could do nothing as Cancelo's powerful shot was deflected off Witsel into the net.

The Spaniards picked up the tempo and in the 64th minute, Dani Parejo's long-range drive flew wide.

Four minutes later and Paco Alcacer and Alvaro Negredo could not get the all-important touch on Cancelo's dangerous cross into the Zenit area.

The home side finally found the equaliser when Jose Gaya spotted Gomes in the six-yard box, and the Portuguese hit a diagonal strike past a helpless Lodygin.

Despite Valencia's efforts, Zenit had the last say -- Witsel silenced the crowd at the Mestalla by driving a right-footed shot from 25 yards towards the bottom left corner of goal and out of Jaume's reach for the win.



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