PORTO (Reuters) - Brazil forward Hulk broke the hearts of his former club’s supporters when he set up Aleksandr Kerzhakov’s late winner for Zenit St Petersburg in a 1-0 Champions League victory at Porto on Tuesday.
The home team made it hard for themselves when Hector Herrera was sent off in the sixth minute. It was the quickest dismissal in the history of the competition for a player receiving two yellow cards.
Second-placed Zenit have four points from three games in Group G, five behind runaway leaders Atletico Madrid who beat Austria Vienna 3-0.
Porto are third with three points and Vienna have one.
All eyes at the Dragao stadium were on the burly Hulk who was back at the club where he spent four memorable years, and he received a hero’s welcome.
Hulk had promised not to celebrate if Zenit scored and he kept his word after setting up substitute Kerzhakov for a fine header in the 86th minute.
“Everyone knows that part of my heart is with Porto. I have a lot of friends here and can only say thank you for such a warm welcome,” Hulk told TVI television.
“When we receive Porto in Russia it is going to be hard. Perhaps even harder than it was today.”
Midfielder Herrera won a rare starting place for Porto but he will want to forget his first Champions League start.
The Mexican was shown his first yellow card when he brought down Hulk as the forward dashed towards goal in a counter-attack. Moments later Herrera received his second for breaking out of the wall too early at the subsequent free kick.
“The sending-off was clearly decisive. Playing with 10 men after six minutes against a team with this quality hinders any strategy you may have,” Porto coach Paulo Fonseca said.
Despite their one-man disadvantage, the hosts enjoyed more possession in the first half and could have scored through Argentine captain Lucho Gonzalez who fired a long-distance shot against the bar.
In the second period Zenit were more in command. Hulk, lively throughout, should have made the breakthrough when Porto centre-back Nicolas Otamendi gave the ball away cheaply in defence.
The Brazilian, with only the keeper to beat, allowed Helton to make a reflex save with his legs.
Hulk also drove in a couple of fierce free kicks and a long-range drive that almost caught Helton off guard.
Porto hit the woodwork again through Silvestre Varela before Kerzhakov delivered his sucker punch a few minutes after coming off the bench.
Jackson Martinez and Varela still had time to waste two good chances for the home team in the dying minutes and they could not prevent a second consecutive Champions League defeat.
“I am not happy with the result but have to be proud with what they did with only 10 men. We created chances and never gave up,” Fonseca said. (Writing by Daniel Alvarenga in Lisbon, editing by Robert Woodward)