Anderlecht kept their Champions League dreams alive with an impressive 1-0 home victory over an underwhelming Zenit St Petersburg.
A superb Dieudonne Mbokani goal ultimately proved to be the difference against a Russian side short of ideas, and one who have now failed to win any of their last eight European away games.
The win, just Anderlecht’s second from their last 22 Champions League games, means they leapfrog Zenit up to third in Group C, one point behind second-placed AC Milan, with just two games remaining.
It was the away side, however, who started the brighter in Belgium, creating the first chance of the game with Nicolas Lombaerts shooting from the edge of the box and bringing out a good save from Silvio Proto.
They followed this up just minutes later when Vladimir Bystrov did well to pick out Sergei Semak in the box, however the Russian’s finish was poor and he failed to find the target.
From this moment it was Anderlecht who took a stranglehold of the game and the combination of Milan Jovanovic and Massimo Bruno down the flanks, with Mbokani down the middle continued to cause the opposition defence problems.
The home side were rewarded for their pressure inside 17 minutes when the ever-dangerous Mbokani played a neat one-two with Sacha Kljestan, before dinking an excellent finish over the helpless Vyacheslav Malafeev.
It could have been two not long afterwards but Zenit had Malafeev to thank for denying Jovanovic with an effort from the edge of the box.
Despite going into the half-time break having started to see more of the ball, Zenit needed to come out after the restart showing more creativity if they wanted to find a way back into the game.
And that they did, with the previously anonymous Axel Witsel becoming a far bigger influence on the game for his side, with his driving runs starting to cause the Anderlecht defence some food for thought.
And the Belgian came close to scoring himself, connecting perfectly with a first-time strike to bring out a superb save out from Proto to keep his side in front.
Despite Zenit’s pressure, Anderlecht seemed happy to sit back and let the away side come at them, safe in the knowledge that they had Mbokani at the other end ready to pounce when they managed to counter.
And Alexander Yakovenko soon had a chance to make sure of the points for Anderlecht only to be denied by the bar in the final stages of the game, after Mbokani had flicked on Jovanovic’s cross.
However, it was not to matter as the home side managed to cling on, despite some late pressure, for the win, setting up a hugely important clash at home to Milan in the next set of games on November 21.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Dieudonne Mbokani - Anderlecht: A physical threat for the hosts all night long and took his goal excellently. Worked his socks off.
ANDERLECHT: Proto 7, Gillet 7, Kouyate 7, Nuytinck 6, Safari 6, Biglia 7, Kljestan 7, Bruno 8, Praet 7, Jovanovic 8, Mbokani 8. Subs: Jakovenko 6, Kanu 6,
ZENIT: Malafeev 6, Anyukov 6, Hubocan 6, Lombaerts 5, Criscito 5, Witsel 6, Shirokov 6, Denisov 5, Bystrov 5, Semak 5, Kerzhakov 6. Subs: Kannunikov 6, Danny 6, Alves 5