Gareth Bale continued his remarkable scoring form with two superb free kicks in Tottenham Hotspur's 2-1 home win over Olympique Lyon as they opened up a first-leg advantage in their last 32 ties.
The Welsh wingers sensational goals at the end of each half - the second a magnificent free-kick with the last touch of the game - lifts his tally to 17 goals so far this season for
Brazilian Oscar spared European champions Chelsea's blushes late on at Sparta Prague in a 1-0 victory.
Chelsea, who dropped into the Europa League after being dumped out of the Champions League as holders in the group stage, flirted with a 0-0 draw until substitute Oscar's 82-minute winner shortly after coming on.
"Sparta played well which made it good. It was a strange experience and I'm glad we got that one goal at the end," said Chelsea and Czech Republic goalkeeper Petr Cech, formerly a Sparta player.
Hulk's unstoppable swerving effort from 30 metres broke the deadlock for Zenit after 69 minutes and Sergei Semak poked home three minutes later to break Liverpool's resistance after the English club's striker Luis Suarez had spurned several chances in the 2-0 loss.
"If we can get (the next goal in next week's home leg), it can create momentum for us. There's no way the tie is over," Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers told the club's website.
- With Reuters