The early stages of the game were a fierce tussle for midfield supremacy. Both sides looked solid and well organised, leaving little in the way of space to attack. The first chance fell to the home team, as Witsel headed clear a Moutinho free kick. After the opening quarter hour, Zenit began to take hold of the game but only really posed a threat from set pieces, with Subasic blocking one and punching another away two-fisted (23 and 27 mins).
AS Monaco were under the cosh a little but stood firm under the pressure, and on 35 minutes Toulalan beat three defenders on the right flank, only to drill his low shot wide of the target. Zenit responded five minutes later through a Lombaerts header from a corner, but it was dealt with confidently by Subasic. The Croatian was then called into action again to keep out a free kick from Danny, just before the break. After a difficult first forty-five, the Red & Whites were somewhat relieved to hear the half-time whistle.
Abdennour with the breakthrough
It was a completely different story in the second half. The home side looked far more enterprising and quickly carved out a couple of good openings, the first a header that Carrasco was unable to direct goalwards, and the second a Berbatov shot deflected behind for a corner (47 and 51 mins). The Bulgarian's night ended prematurely as he picked up a knock and was replaced by Martial on 56 minutes. Then, shortly after the hour mark, came AS Monaco's moment of deliverance. Carrasco stepped up to take a free kick from wide on the right and found the head of Abdennour, who duly propelled the ball past Lodygin. The Tunisian sprinted to celebrate his goal with the kop. The Louis-II erupted.
Carrasco denied a penalty
There was only one team in it now. From another Carrasco free kick, Raggi side-footed home but was ruled offside (67 mins). Zenit did manage to create a good chance with a free kick from Hulk that flew just over the bar (70 mins), before Abdennour timed a superb tackle in the penalty area to avert the danger in the 73rd minute. Dirar grazed Lodygin's right-hand post with a drilled effort, and then Carrasco was denied a spot-kick as he was bundled over in the box…
Fabinho turns the screw
On 84 minutes, Martial was unable to reach Raggi's cross, but five minutes later it was Fabinho who finally made sure of the result, beating Lodygin to seal AS Monaco's place in the knockout stages. And to top off a great night for the Red & Whites, Benfica and Bayer fought out a goalless draw to leave them sitting pretty at the top of Group C! Tonight's success was built on a winning combination of teamwork, selflessness and talent. Mission accomplished! Now all eyes will be on Monday's draw for the round of 16...