VanNistelrooycasuallydinkedin a cross to Higuaín who, completely unmarked, thumped a bullet header goalwards and Malafeev was forced to make a superb reflex save to parry the ball over.

The Russians failed to clear the resulting corner Real Madrid worked their way into the lead. Van der Vaart slid in a harmless looking low cross from the right and Hubocan, under pressure from a crowd of advancing black shirts behind him, smashed the ball into his own net.

Three minutes later, the Zenit’s backline was exposed again when Robben slipped in van Nistelrooy but the striker slipped just as he pulled trigger on the edge of the box and ballooned the shot well over.

Zenit side looked utterly overwhelmedas theystruggled to find their normal rhythm and range and it took Dick Advocaat’s men until the 20th minute before finally settled into the game and created their first real threat.

Danny streaked down the left wing and his deflected low cross found Pogrebnyak but Casillas dashed off his line quick enough to smother the ball, although he received a knock to his knee for his troubles. Moment later, Arshavin thumped in a half volley just outside the box but his effort lacked any real power or direction to trouble the Real Madrid goalkeeper.

But Zenit’s attacking persistence and patience paid off when they levelled proceedings on 24 minutes. Arshavin floated in a cross from the left and Danny lunged forward at the far post to beat a sloppy Heinze to the ball and knocked it in past a stunned Casillas.

See what I mean when I say Real Madrid really need to work on crosses and air balls. It’s just too easy at the moment and good sides will kill Real Madrid if Real Madrid don’t improve in this department.

Straight from the restart, Madrid charged forward and van der Vaart tested Malafeev with a stinging shot from 20 yards out but the goalie did well to fist it well clear.

Van Nistelrooy. He has got some finish on his boot.

Van Nistelrooy. He has got some finish on his boot.


Real Madrid were back infront right on the half hour mark. Van der Vaart’s initial shot ricochet off Puygrenier and van Nistelrooy latched on to the loose ball to finish off clinically with a left-footed shot across the face of Malafeev.

That’s what we know of Van Nistelrooy. He might not be the greatest striker in the world today, but he is certainly the greatest poucher of the ball.

Five minutes later, Higuaín had a glorious chance to make it three when van der Vaart put him through with a cheeky backheel but Higuain drilled his effort just over the bar.

The half ended strongly with chances at both ends. Danny first had a penalty claim waved away when he was shoulder charged off the ball by Diarr