The loss allowed Lyon to advance as the second-place team in Group G after a 2-2 draw against group winner Leipzig at home , with Memphis Depay's equalizer coming in the 82nd minute. Zenit would have advanced if Lyon had lost to Leipzig because of a better head-to-head record against the French club.
"Everyone did know the result of the other match at halftime (when Lyon was losing 2-0), but I don't think it influenced our performance, made them relax or anything," Zenit coach Sergei Semak said. “It's all about the mistakes we made on the pitch.”
The Russian champions ended last in the group, missing a spot in the Europa League as well. Benfica finished third to secure a place in the round of 32 of the second-tier European club competition. “It was a game of patience,” Benfica defender Rúben Dias said. “It was the Europa League berth that was up for grabs for us and gladly we reached that goal.”
Zenit would have secured third place if it had scored at least a goal against Benfica. Leipzig won the group with 11 points, three more than Lyon. Benfica and Zenit finished with seven points each, with the Portuguese club ahead in the head-to-head tiebreaker. It has lost 3-1 in the game in Russia.
Zenit was trying to make it to the knockout stage of the Champions League for the first time since the 2015-16 season. The Russian side hasn't won in 12 straight away matches in European competitions.
Midfielder Franco Cervi opened the scoring from close range in the 47th minute after a low cross by Pizzi Fernandes, who added to the lead by converting a 58th-minute penalty kick following a handball by Douglas Santos. The Brazilian defender was sent off with a second yellow card because of the foul.
Benfica's third was an own-goal by Sardar Azmoun in the 79th. The forward flicked the ball into his own net while trying to clear a cross inside the area. “We couldn't achieve our first goal, which was to advance in the Champions League, but we achieved the next one, making it to the Europa League," Fernandes said. "It was a deserved victory, we played a great match.”
Benfica could have advanced in the Champions League had it not conceded twice after the 90th minute in a 2-2 draw at Leipzig in its previous match.
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