Russian champions Zenit exit Europe after goal controversially disallowed

Zenit St. Petersburg were denied a late goal in their game against Real Betis

Russian champions Zenit St. Petersburg exited the UEFA Europa League in controversial circumstances as they had a late goal ruled out by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in their match against Real Betis in Spain.

Zenit thought they had scored in injury time when Dmitry Chistyakov headed in a cross from Andrey Mostovoy, which would have leveled the tie at 3-3 and sent the game to extra time.

But after a VAR review the goal was chalked off by Turkish referee Haili Umut Meler for a foul in the build-up by Zenit midfielder Aleksandr Erokhin on Betis rival Guido Rodriguez.

Contact seemed slight as some fans and pundits claimed Betis had been let off the hook as the Spanish club secured passage into the last 16 of the tournament.  

“Zenit were knocked out of the Europa League by one of the worst VAR decisions in history as their 92nd minute goal at Betis was disallowed,” wrote football reporter Sam Street.

Zenit were knocked out of the Europa League by one of the worst VAR decisions in history as their 92nd minute goal at Betis was disallowed.

Conveniently, UEFA won’t now have to decide whether Russian teams must play at neutral venues until next season.pic.twitter.com/l9dMZ0d4C2

— Sam Street (@samstreetwrites) February 24, 2022

Street also alluded to the pressure on football bosses at UEFA amid the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

“Conveniently, UEFA won’t now have to decide whether Russian teams must play at neutral venues until next season,” he added, even though Russian club Spartak Moscow remain in the competition.

“Zenit St. Petersburg score in the last minute in Betis to make aggregate score 3-3 in Europa League game. Then ref goes to VAR screen, disallows it. Soft. Betis stay 3-2 up. UEFA breathe sigh of relief. Zenit on way out,” said New York Times writer Tariq Panja.

Zenit St. Petersburg score in the last minute in Betis to make aggregate score 3-3 in Europa League game. Then ref goes to VAR screen, disallows it. Soft. Betis stay 3-2 up. Uefa breathe sigh of relief. Zenit on way out. pic.twitter.com/h9yefZxSiE

— tariq panja (@tariqpanja) February 24, 2022

The Russian champions also had a second-half finish from Yuri Alberto ruled out for offside as they exited the competition.

Sponsored by Russian energy giants Gazprom, Zenit had found themselves with an uphill struggle after losing the first leg 3-2 to the Spaniards in St. Petersburg last week.

“I haven’t seen the moment myself and haven’t watched the replay yet,” said Chistykov after the match. 

“In the game itself, it wasn’t clear why they were watching VAR. I scored a goal, ran and celebrated. Then they said that it seems that [Alexander] Erokhin stepped on the leg of the defender and he fell. I want to see it myself again later. But, once they turned to VAR, it means that there was a violation… It’s unpleasant, of course.”

There were suggestions that Thursday’s game at Estadio Benito Villamarin in Seville could be postponed in light of the Russian military action in Donbass and Ukraine, although it ended up going ahead, with some home fans seen waving a Ukrainian flag in the crowd. 

UEFA is widely expected to announce on Friday that St. Petersburg’s Gazprom Arena – where Zenit play their home matches – will be stripped of the Champions League final, which it is due to host in May.   

The Zenit social media team was gracious in defeat, wishing Betis all the best as they enter the hat for the last 16 draw on Friday.

FT’| A fantastic effort from the team but our hosts progress! Best of luck to @RealBetis_en for the rest of the competition.#RealBetisZenit #UEL pic.twitter.com/jdehEOSZwa

— FC Zenit in English✨ (@fczenit_en) February 24, 2022

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