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Courtois error ends Atletico's perfect record

26 November 2013, 21:43

Saint Petersburg - A huge error from Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois allowed Zenit St Petersburg to snatch a vital Champions League point against the high-flying Spaniards as they drew 1-1 in Russia on Tuesday.

An under-strength Atletico, already assured of a pass to the knockout stages as Group G leaders, had taken the lead eight minutes into the second-half when Adrian Lopez broke clear of the Zenit defence and finished confidently low past Juri Lodigin.

However, the Russians were saved 17 minutes from time when Courtois allowed teammate Toby Alderweireld's looping header to drop into his own net to end Atletico's 100 percent record in the Champions League so far this season.

The result does still dent Zenit's chances of progressing to the last 16 as they now need to beat Austria Vienna on matchday six and hope that Porto drop points against the Austrians later on Tuesday or when they visit Madrid in two weeks time.

With Atletico already assured of top spot coach Diego Simeone left a number of his first-team regulars, including Diego Costa, David Villa and Diego Godin back in the Spanish capital.

And Atleti boss Diego Simeone was full of praise for those who had come in and aquitted themselves well, especially Adrian.

"It was a difficult game in a difficult stadium to come to against very good players, but we got a good result," he said.

"I always underline the work of the group, but Adrian in the way he is improving is becoming closer to the player that we need."

Zenit dominated possession but struggled to breakdown Atleti's solid defence in the first-half with Hulk's piledriver from the edge of the area that was beaten away by Courtois their most dangerous effort.

Atletico had failed to take advantage of the space Zenit were allowing them to counter-attack into during the first period, but they finally got it right just after the break as Raul Garcia released Adrian and he kept his composure to slot home his second goal in as many games.

Garcia then nearly doubled the visitors' advantage as he rattled the crossbar, whilst at the other end Alexander Kerzhakov headed a great chance over from close range.

Zenit's equaliser was to arrive in comic fashion though as Courtois let Alderweireld's header go, believing it was going out for a corner, only to be left embarrassed when the ball dipped underneath his crossbar.

Garcia had another chance to win the game eight minutes from the end, but this time was denied by a smart low stop from Lodygin as the spoils were shared.

Zenit coach Luciano Spalletti said he was pleased with his team's performance.

"We played a good match against very strong opponents," he said.

"My players showed almost all they could. Unfortunately we missed too many scoring opportunities tonight. But I'm pleased with my team's performance."

"We have drawn all three of our home matches in the group. Today the draw looks a fair result."




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