Thu, Nov 06, 2014 - Page 18 News List

Son brace sees Leverkusen cement top spot in Group C

AFP, ST PETERSBURG, Russia

Bayer 04 Leverkusen cemented their place at the top of UEFA Champions League Group C with a 2-1 win at Zenit St Petersburg on Tuesday thanks to Son Heung-min’s superb second-half goals.

The South Korean striker got the second-half breakthrough Bayer needed after an unconvincing first 45 minutes when he shot into the top-right corner on 68 minutes.

The 22-year-old then added his second five minutes later at Zenit’s Petrovsky Stadium when he held off the Russian defense after striker Stefan Kiessling had won back possession.

The South Korean star showed plenty of poise in front of goal, before coolly slotting his shot past goalkeeper Yuri Lodygin.

Zenit scored a late consolation goal when substitute Jose Rondon netted in the 89th minute after fellow substitute Aleksandr Ryazantsev lofted his pass over the Bayer defense to the feet of the Venezuelan striker.

“These three points are very important,” Son said.

“In the first half we were a little bit hectic, it wasn’t our match at all, but in the second half we put in a much better performance,” the South Korean said. “You always could see that we wanted to win this match and we finally did.”

The hosts’ goal sparked a frantic final five minutes as Zenit threw everything into attack in a bid to salvage a point.

It left space at the back and Leverkusen’s Australian substitute Robbie Kruse almost scored with his first touch as Bayer held on for the three points.

The Russian side certainly had the better of the first-half chances, while Leverkusen barely tested the Russian defense in the opening half an hour.

Brazil star Hulk hit the post from a curling free-kick after just 13 minutes to cause a few nerves in the visitors’ defense.

Then veteran striker Aleksandr Kerzhakov was presented with two clear opportunities by Zenit captain Danny inside the opening 30 minutes. Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno denied the Russian striker on both occasions.

Bayer’s third consecutive win, having lost their opening match against AS Monaco, saw them move on to nine points.

The victory in Russia was the perfect response to Saturday’s shock 1-0 defeat at Hamburg SV — their first loss in nine games — and it leaves them in pole position to qualify as Group C winners.

The defeat puts pressure on Andre Villas-Boas’ Russian Premier League leaders, who are third in the table, five points adrift of Leverkusen.

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