Saint Petersburg, March 10: Nicolas Gaitan and Talisca scored late goals as Benfica came from behind to beat Zenit Saint Petersburg 2-1 in Russia on Wednesday and march on to the Champions League quarter-finals 3-1 on aggregate.
Trailing 1-0 from last month's first leg, Zenit levelled the tie when Hulk opened the scoring on the night in the 69th minute and extra time was looming when Gaitan stunned the Petrovsky Stadium by netting at the other end five minutes from time.
Substitute Talisca wrapped up the victory with the last kick of the game as the Portuguese league leaders progressed to the last eight of the Champions League for the first time since 2012, when they also eliminated Zenit at this stage.
"With full respect to our opponents I was confident that we would make it through to the quarter-finals before kick-off," Benfica coach Rui Vitoria said.
"We played really well, we scored two goals and I believe we were the better side and won deservedly.
"Our young players who came into the side put everything into the game and showed great desire. They proved they can play at a high level and I'm really proud of my men."
Benfica travelled to Russia with the edge in the tie thanks to a solitary late strike by Jonas in the first leg last month but Zenit will rue a host of missed chances in the second half at the Petrovsky Stadium as their dream of reaching the Champions League last eight for the first time died in the chill of Saint Petersburg.
Zenit's Portuguese coach Andre Villas-Boas, who will leave the club at the end of the season, has hurt Benfica in the past when in charge of Porto and he would have been confident of turning this tie around against a diminished visiting side.
The Portuguese league leaders were without a host of key players due to injury and suspension, including towering centre-back Luisao, Jardel, Lisandro Lopez, Andre Almeida and goalkeeper Julio Cesar. Artem Dzyuba, scorer of six goals in the group stage, fired just wide for Zenit early on, but Renato Sanches came close at the other end in a fairly even first period. ?AFP