Originally written on NESN.com  |  Last updated 10/28/14
Liverpool’s hopes of Europa League success took a blow after it went down to a 2-0 defeat to Zenit St. Petersburg in the first leg of the last 32 tie in Russia on Thursday evening. The Reds created plenty of chances in an entertaining game but were ultimately punished by two late goals for the home side. Hulk fired Zenit into the lead with just over 20 minutes remaining when he arrowed into the top corner from range, before substitute Sergei Semak sealed victory for the Russians soon after. It means Liverpool must secure a win by a three-goal-or-greater margin in the return meeting at Anfield next week or their aspirations of lifting silverware this season will be over. Brendan Rodgers made three changes to his starting XI in Russia, with Raheem Sterling, Martin Skrtel and Joe Allen returning to the side in place of Jonjo Shelvey, Lucas Leiva and Daniel Agger. The boss had used his pregame press conference to emphasize Liverpool’s determination to go all the way in the competition, while acknowledging Zenit would provide a stern test of his side’s aspirations. And within 120 seconds, both sides had good chances to open the scoring. First, Hulk saw a stinging volley beaten away by a low stop from Pepe Reina. Meanwhile, at the other end, a Liverpool break resulted in Luis Suarez steering one inches wide of the far post. Hulk was thwarted by the Reds goalkeeper again soon after, this time having a low drive from the edge of the box parried around the post. With 16 minutes on the clock, Suarez spurned a golden chance to open the scoring when he raced clear of the Zenit defense and rounded Vyacheslav Malafeev after pouncing on a poor ball from Nicolas Lombaerts. However, his touch was too heavy and Lombaerts was able to recover and avert the danger. The opening period was turning into something of a shootout between Suarez and Hulk — and the latter was next to threaten when he struck against the base of the post. With Reina grounded, the ball rolled agonizingly across the face of goal before the visitors cleared to safety. In keeping with the game’s pattern, Suarez went close again five minutes before the break, this time flicking Sterling’s low cross the wrong side of the post from inside the six-yard box. Liverpool had Zenit hearts in mouths again shortly after the restart when Glen Johnson‘s surging run from halfway carried him into the area, but his prod towards goal was blocked by Malafeev’s sprawl. Suarez then had them worried yet again when he curled just off target on the hour as the Reds began to threaten. However, having enjoyed their best spell of the game, Liverpool found themselves behind when Hulk beat Reina from almost 30 yards with a powerful effort into the top corner on 69 minutes. Zenit furthered their advantage just moments later as substitute Semak collected a deep cross completely unmarked at the back post and finished neatly. It leaves Liverpool with it all to do in next week’s second leg — but history has proven anything is possible on European occasions at Anfield and Kopites will be hoping it’s another night to savour. Liverpoolfc.com journalists’ man of the match: Steven Gerrard Photo via Liverpoolfc.com
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

MLBPA reacts to Kris Bryant's minor league assignment

Gregg Marshall's show canceled, Bama speculation grows

Report: Shaka Smart in discussions with Texas

Report: Rick Barnes expected to land at Tennessee

Demaryius Thomas planning to skip Broncos' workouts

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Rockets GM: We think we can win NBA title despite injuries

Browns GM Ray Farmer suspended over text messages

Aaron Hernandez's fiancee disposed of box after murder

Byron Scott: Opposing players say they want to play for Lakers

Falcons reportedly will lose pick over pumping in crowd noise

Report: Sam Bradford wouldn't sign extension with Browns

WATCH: Stars' Patrik Nemeth catches puck inside visor

10 winners and losers from the past week in the NFL

University of California soccer player found dead

Joe Namath parties with twin 100 year-old women

WATCH: Mike Napoli hits home run as bat shatters

WATCH: Marc Gasol misses shot, rips jersey in disgust

PHOTO: Minor league team to wear Jabba the Hutt jerseys

Lions LB DeAndre Levy takes ride on top of a moving plane

Colts owner addresses Indiana religious freedom bill

John Calipari addresses controversial ND comments

Arizona coach Sean Miller rips critics: 'Go cheer for ASU'

Report: NFL could push extra point back to 15-yard line

Soccer News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

10 winners and losers from the past week in the NFL

Namath parties with 100 yr-old women

Report: Shaka Smart talking to Texas

Rick Barnes to land at Tennessee?

Browns GM suspended for texts

Hernandez's fiancee disposed of box

Mayweather-Pacquiao: It's sparring tall-tale season

The MLBPA has a problem

Final Four preview: Can every team win?

Full WrestleMania 31 recap and results

Why Texas had to fire Rick Barnes

Craig Sager's leukemia has returned

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.