A 35th minute strike from Danny secured a 1-0 away win over seven-time champions AC Milan and a Europa League spot for Russian side Zenit St Petersburg on Tuesday.
With qualification secured two weeks ago, Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri could afford to rest a number of regulars including top scorer Stephan El Shaarawy, midfielder Riccardo Montolivo and defender Philippe Mexes.
However Allegri’s plan almost backfired, with fans leaving the stadium early as the dominant hosts tried but failed to find a leveler to Danny’s superb first-half strike.
Zenit had been condemned to perform as well as Anderlecht did away to Malaga to hold on to third place in Group C and a Europa League last 32 spot.
And despite seeing his side defend for long periods as Milan laid siege to the visitors’ area Zenit held on for a win which Spalletti did not seem too overwhelmed with.
“I’m happy with the qualification [for Europa] and how we played tonight, it’s good we are still in Europe,” said Spalletti, who grew up 70km away from Allegri in Tuscany.
Spalletti sent out his strongest possible side, with Hulk spearheading the attack flanked by Danny and Sergei Semak and Bruno Alves marshaling the defense in front of the experienced Vyacheslav Malafeev.
And on one of their few forays into the Milan area Danny pounced to send a superb curling shot past the outstretched Christian Abbiati to secure victory.
Milan should have had several goals, especially in the second half when the Russians seemed happy to sit on their lead.
However, the Rossoneri’s hopes for an early opener were snuffed out by the referee who waved away what appeared to be a valid penalty claim after Alves felled Giampaolo Pazzini from behind in the fourth minute.
When Zenit broke the deadlock, Milan’s makeshift defense was caught on the hoof, Danny picking up a backpass from his own through ball to beat Abbiati with a well placed shot at the ’keeper’s far post.
Milan responded immediately, but attempts by Bojan and Flamini, the latter with a rasping drive which forced a good block from Malafeev, came to nothing.
Milan came close to leveling minutes after the restart when Urby Emanuelson got his foot to Kevin-Prince Boateng’s cross from the right after a superb counterattack orchestrated by defender Francesco Acerbi, only for Malafeev to block superbly.