Tonight (Wednesday) FC Utrecht beat the Russian FK Zenit St. Petersburg in a seething Stadium Galgenwaard. Fifteen minutes before the end Zakaria Labyad made sure that victory went to the team who deserved it most in the home match of the Europa League play-off: 1-0.

He rushed forward. Of course he rushed forward and again he did so. Sean Klaiber. There were still fifteen minutes left. The defender did not know when to stop. He sent the ball to Gyrano Kerk who took possession. And he wrote on the ball in bold print: this one is for CYRIEL DESSERS, who received the ball and fired it at goalkeeper Andrey Lunev. The goalie parried it away, but was beaten all the same. Because there was Zakaria Labyad in the rebound and he headed in 1-0 for FC Utrecht. There was utter euphoria in Stadium Galgenwaard.

The tone was set
That stadium had a seething crowd tonight. After the spectacular celebration of world champion Dafne Schippers and a cool performance by rapper aCtive, many thousands of scarves appeared and went up into the air. That was breathtaking. The tone was set.

Suffer a goal
What the spectators had started, was taken over by the FC players from the city of Utrecht. From the very beginning they took on the fight against their Russian opponent, and though they demonstrated respect for the number 22 of the Euro Club Index, they did not fear them. For a long time goalkeeper Lunev was able to avoid suffering a goal with his octopus style saves, but had to allow a goal fifteen minutes before the end.

Clean sheet
After the opening score FC Utrecht had a few more nice opportunities to score a second goal, but that did not happen. Oh, and what happened at the other end of the pitch? Well, there were some exciting moments in front of David Jensen’s goal, but the Russians did not create many opportunities. From stationary moments they perhaps were most dangerous, but for the third time in the Europa League this season FC Utrecht kept a clean sheet.

Next week return match
Next week, on Thursday 24 August, the return match of the Europa League play-off will be played. The team that leaves the pitch as winners in St. Petersburg, qualifies for the group stage of the prestigious European club football tournament.

Sunday: Willem II home match!
But before the Utrecht squad leaves for Russia, there will be an Eredivisie match on Sunday. The first home League match of the season to be more precise, with Willem II as opponent. On Sunday the match starts at 14:30 in Stadium Galgenwaard and ticket sales are in full swing. Tickets can be bought via INTERNET and in the FC Utrecht Fanshop.

FC Utrecht – FK Zenit Sint-Petersburg 1-0 (0-0)
76. Zakaria Labyad 1-0

Yellow cards: Sean Klaiber en Yassin Ayoub (both FC Utrecht).

Attendance: 19,370.

Referee: Slavko Vincic.

Line-up FC Utrecht:
David Jensen; Sean Klaiber, Mark van der Maarel, Edson Braafheid (89. Dario Dumic), Robin van der Meer (78. Giovanni Troupée); Yassin Ayoub, Sander van de Streek, Urby Emanuelson, Zakaria Labyad; Gyrano Kerk (79. Lukas Görtler), Cyriel Dessers.

Line-up FK Zenit Sint-Petersburg:
Andrey Lunev; Igor Smolnikov, Emanuel Mammana, Branislav Ivanovic, Domenico Criscito; Alexander Yerokhin, Leando Paredes, Matias Kranevitter (84. Daler Kuzyaev); Sebastian Driussi (57. Dmitri Poloz), Alexander Kokorin (89. Artem Dzyuba), Yuri Zhirkov.