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Ivanovic stars as Zenit dump Celtic out of Europe

© AFP / by Jed Court | Branislav Ivanovic scored and set up another goal as Zenit knocked out Celtic


Branislav Ivanovic starred as Zenit St Petersburg knocked Celtic out of the Europa League on Thursday by overturning a first-leg deficit in the last 32 with a 3-0 victory in Russia, while RB Leipzig held off a late Napoli comeback.

Celtic have now failed to reach the last 16 of a European tournament since the 2012-13 Champions League, while Zenit are still hoping to repeat their UEFA Cup success from 10 years ago after the 3-1 aggregate win.

Former Chelsea centre-back Ivanovic wasted little time in wiping out Celtic's first-leg 1-0 lead, powering home a header in the eighth minute to mark his 34th birthday with his third goal in the competition this season.

The Scottish champions found themselves behind in the tie before the half-hour mark, as Daler Kuzyeyev crashed a swerving, long-range strike past Celtic goalkeeper Dorus de Vries.

Roberto Mancini's Zenit secured their place in Friday's last-16 draw in the 61st minute with Serbian international Ivanovic again playing a key role as his low cross was bundled in by Aleksandr Kokorin at the back post.

Serie A leaders Napoli gave Leipzig a serious fright in Germany, but a 2-0 win was in vain as last week's 3-1 loss proved too much to come back from.

Visiting coach Maurizio Sarri, who was given his own smoking room by Leipzig, named a strong team, and Piotr Zielinski's first-half goal gave Napoli hope.

The fightback looked as though it wouldn't materialise, but Lorenzo Insigne's strike with four minutes to play set up a tense finale.

Leipzig held on to continue their debut European campaign with Napoli left to focus on defending their one-point lead over Juventus in Italy.

"We were one step away from the miracle," said Napoli's Brazilian midfielder Allan. "It's an important victory for us after the lost first leg.

"There is a bit of a bitter taste in the mouth for the elimination, now we have to concentrate all our strength on the championship and have a great finale to the season."

Lazio, who sit in the fourth and final Champions League spot in Serie A, thrashed FCSB 5-1 with Ciro Immobile scoring a hat-trick to brush off the surprise 1-0 first-leg defeat in Romania.

Nice were made to pay for their first-leg collapse as a 1-0 defeat at Lokomotiv Moscow saw the Russian side through 4-2 on aggregate.

Lokomotiv had come back from two goals down to win the opening game in France, and Igor Denisov grabbed the only goal of the return match in the 30th minute.

"We could have achieved a much better result if we had been better in front of goal," said Nice coach Lucien Favre.

"But frankly, after a 3-2 defeat on home turf, we were in a difficult position."

Elsewhere, Atletico Madrid completed the formalities of their tie with FC Copenhagen, winning 5-1 overall after Kevin Gameiro scored in a 1-0 victory on the night.

Last season's semi-finalists Lyon won 1-0 at Villarreal to go through 4-1 on aggregate, while Sporting Lisbon and Viktoria Plzen also reached the last 16.

by Jed Court

© 2018 AFP