Ibra set for Man Utd return with Milan

Witsel and Criscito guide Zenit to win over Torino

13/03/2015

Zenit St Petersburg took a big step towards the Europa League quarterfinals with a 2-0 win over 10-man Torino in the first leg of their last-16 clash.

Axel Witsel opened the scoring in the 38th minute for the Russians and Domenico Criscito doubled the advantage eight minutes after the break.

Zenit's home form in the Europa League is formidable, with 11 wins from their previous 12 matches, and Torino were always facing an uphill battle once Marco Benassi picked up his second yellow card only 27 minutes in.

Benassi was booked in the 12th minute for a foul on Hulk and then saw red following an ugly challenge on Witsel.

The hosts had been bossing the game until that dismissal without managing to turn dominance into chances.

Andre Villas-Boas' side finally created a good opening seven minutes before half-time and took full advantage to deservedly move ahead.

Oleg Shatov drove into the box on the right and let fly with a shot that Daniele Padelli could only push out into the danger zone and to the waiting Witsel, who made no mistake.

The Torino keeper looked far from comfortable and Jose Rondon thought he had doubled the advantage when he tucked away Witsel's flick but he was just offside.

Zenit picked up where they left off at the start of the second half, with Padelli this time doing well to deny Hulk with his feet when the striker was played through on goal.

But two minutes later the keeper was left helpless again as Danny combined with Hulk on the edge of the box.

The striker's shot hit a post but rebounded perfectly for Criscito, who had the simple task of rolling the ball into an empty net.

Zenit have not reached the last eight in Europe since winning the Europa League in 2008 but it will take a significant turnaround in next week's second leg to deny them.

Torino, one of five Italian teams to make it through to the last 16, only managed two attempts on goal, neither of which were on target.

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