Malaga rested several of their leading players yet still enjoyed a productive night against Zenit St Petersburg in a 2-2 draw at the Petrovskiy Stadium that confirmed their status as Champions League Group C winners.
The home side had kept alive their faint hopes of joining them in second place courtesy of goals from Danny (49) and Viktor Faizulin (86), but later tumbled out of the competition with AC Milan enjoying a 3-1 win over Anderlecht in Belgium later in the evening.
Manuel Pellegrini's side were missing goalkeeper Carlos Kameni due to gastroenteritis as well as striker Javier Saviola and winger Joaquin, who were rested for the trip to Russia.
Defenders Nacho Monreal and Sergio Sanchez were further absentees, along with Julio Baptista, while Manuel Iturra was suspended.
But you would never have known it as Zenit were winded twice in the opening 10 minutes.
The Spanish side moved ahead on eight minutes when Diego Buonanotte accepted a lovely ball from Seba Fernandez to lift the ball over Vyacheslav Malafeev for the opening goal.
Malafeev was badly at fault less than a minute later as he passed the ball straight to Roque Santa Cruz who picked out Fernandez to send an effort spinning into the corner of the net.
It was the third time this season that Zenit have found themselves 2-0 down before the half-hour mark in the Champions League. And it left them with a mountain to climb.
Hulk flicked a free-kick inches wide on 13 minutes while Igor Denisov forced Malaga goalkeeper Willy Caballero to scramble across his line to scramble claw out an effort that was looked destined for the net.
Zenit continued to press in the second period and were rewarded when Danny slipped the ball into the net from Tomas Hubocan's ball across the face of goal with a smart finish.
Alexander Kerzhakov somehow knocked the ball into the side netting after rounding Willy while Danny saw a couple of efforts halted by the imposing Willy.
But the Russian side were rewarded when Faizulin beat Caballero with a powerful shot from 12 yards after Danny had somehow managed to stand on the ball trying to score on the visiting goal-line.
It was an unbelievable miss and Zenit will conclude a miserable Group C campaign against Milan in the San Siro on December 4 with only a Europe League spot at stake.
Vladimir Bystrov was sent off at the final whistle for dissent to conclude the evening in a highly unsatisfactory manner for the Russian team.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Eliseu - Malaga: Competent display in defence as he helped his side grab the point they needed to win the section.
Zenit: Malafeev 4, Anyukov 5, Bruno Alves 5, Lombaerts 5, Hubocan 6; Shirokov 5, Denisov 6, Witsel 6; Danny 6, Hulk 5, Kerzhakov 5. Subs: Fayzulin 7, Bystrov 7.
Malaga: Willy 7, Gámez 6, Demichelis 6, Onyewu 6, Eliseu 7, Seba 7, Toulalan 7, Camacho 7, Duda 7, Buonanotte 7, Santa Cruz 7. Subs: Weligton 5, Portillo 6, Juanmi 6.
- Sports & Recreation
- Zenit St Petersburg