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Fluke goal helps Zenit draw tie

A dejected Thibaut Courtois, in St Petersburg, on Tuesday

St Petersburg: A goalkeeping blunder by Atletico Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois gave Zenit St Petersburg a qualification lifeline, as they fought back to draw 1-1 in their Champions League Group G match on Tuesday.

Defender Toby Alderweireld deflected a right-wing cross towards the net in the 74th minute and Belgian Courtois, on loan from Chelsea, flapped at the ball as it dropped over his head and into the net for a precious equaliser for the Russians.

Zenit are second in the table with six points from five matches, two more than Porto.

Leaders Atletico (13 points), who were already through to the knock-out stage as group winners, went ahead in the 53rd minute when Adrian Lopez raced clear on the left before slipping the ball under goalkeeper Yuri Lodygin. Atletico had already qualified from Group G but Zenit failed to take advantage and second place is still up for grabs between the Russians and FC Porto.

While Zenit enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, Atletico were clinical, Adrian pouncing to put them ahead in the 53rd minute.

However, an absolute fluke goal — when highly-rated goalkeeper Courtois completely miscalculated a straightforward tip-over from Alderweireld’s defensive header — saved Zenit in the 74th minute.

Atletico kept the ball well in the early stages and had the first on-target effort of the game, Fernandez Gabi unleashing a shot from the edge of the area which was always rising.

Zenit, though, began to enjoy more possession and almost went ahead in the 14th minute when Hulk unleashed a sledgehammer of a shot which forced Courtois to parry the ball. Zenit were having a steady stream of attacks but their final ball left something to be desired and they were met by a wave of Atletico defenders.