At the height of the Second World War, the siege of Leningrad is believed to have lasted some 872 days.
In the city that’s subsequently been named St Petersburg, the resistance of Brendan Rodgers and his Celtic players proved to be rather more feeble on Thursday night.
By the end of hugely disappointing affair, the small pocket of travelling fans were entitled to feel they’d sat through this dreary old movie a few times.
Aleksandr Kokorin sucks his thumb after scoring Zenit’s third in their victory over Celtic
The striker tapped home from close range as Zenit dumped Celtic out of the Europa League
It was a stark contrast in emotions as Zenit’s joy was set among a backdrop of Celtic misery
Zenit St Petersburg: Lunev, Ivanovic (Smolnikov 87), Mammana, Criscito, Mevlja, Kranevitter, Rigoni (Driussi 84), Paredes, Kuzyaev, Kokorin, Zabolotny (Erokhin 76).
Subs not used: Lodygin, Terentjev, Poloz, Zhirkov.
Booked: Paredes, Kuzyaev
Goals: Ivanovic 8, Kuzyayev 27, Kokorin 61
Celtic: De Vries, Tierney, Ajer, Simunovic, Lustig, Ntcham, Brown, Kouassi (Rogic 45), McGregor (Sinclair 62), Forrest (Musonda 71), Dembele.
Subs not used: Bain, Hendry, Edouard, Miller.
Booked: Kouassi, Dembele
Referee: Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz (Spain)
After all the promise of the first leg, so many old failings were again their side’s undoing: A lack of poise and concentration. The loss of an early goal. An inability to take one of the few half chances that came their way. Progress at this level does not seem to come easy.
No one expected finishing the job to be in any way straight-forward but Zenit rather cruised through to the last 16, the Scots simply unable to lay a glove on them.
The cohesion and belief Celtic had shown in winning the first game in Glasgow was conspicuous by its absence. So too was the high-press which seemed to rattle the Russians. With the exception of Olivier Ntcham and James Forrest, no one in a hooped shirt really did themselves justice.
It was a particularly painful affair for Dorus de Vries. The Dutch keeper needed a big display here to lay claim to Craig Gordon’s jersey in the longer term but a poor attempt to deny Daler Kuzyaev Zenit’s second will not help his cause.
By that stage, though, the cracks were long evident. Branislav Ivanovic’s headed opener inside eight minutes was claimed with embarrassing ease.
Celtic rallied to an extent after the break but by the time Aleksandr Kokorin added a third just after the hour they had shown little sign of finding their cutting edge.
Brendan Rodgers (centre) watched on as his Celtic side began the second leg with a 1-0 lead
Celtic left back Kieran Tierney drills in a low cross into the box during the early exchanges
Celtic’s first-leg lead lasted just eight minutes in the return clash thanks to Branislav Ivanovic
The Zenit defender headed the hosts level on aggregate with this thumping effort
The former Chelsea man wheels away in celebration after his header flew past Doris de Vries
The birthday boy, who turned 34 on Thursday, was promptly mobbed by his team-mates
Truthfully, Rodgers’ men were well beaten in the end. Any belief that the ring-rust that had beset Roberto Mancini’s men in Glasgow would last another week proved to be wishful thinking.
The prospect of a second successive Treble, with the next stop Pittodrie on Sunday, means they won’t have much time for reflection but on the long flight home on Thursday night they will have considered how distant the latter stages of European competitions can seem on such nights.
What a curious backdrop the Krestovsky Stadium made. Although a jaw-dropping spectacular structure, its heated interior – keeping out the minus 14 degree cold – gave it a surreal feel.
With the match nowhere near a sell-out, the noise rather bounced off its retractable roof. For all the world, it felt like a gargantuan swimming pool.
Having presided over the near perfect European performance last week, the unchanged line-up Rodgers named surprised no one. Ivanovic returning for Zenit at right back but that was the only alteration to Mancini’s side.
It took the former Chelsea man just eight minutes to make an indelible mark on the contest. Just as Celtic seemed to be easing their way in, Leandro Paredes’ low curler from the edge of the box forced De Vries to turn the ball away for a corner.
It was comedic defending thereafter. Paredes’ out-swinger along the six-yard line found Kristoffer Ajer blocked of at the far post and Jozo Simunovic oblivious to the impending danger. Rising unchallenged, Ivanovic’s planted header found the top corner and, in the blink of an eye, Callum McGregor’s first-leg goal had been cancelled out.
Celtic captain Scott Brown vies for the ball with Ivanovic during the first half of the last-32 tie
Zenit took the lead on aggregate on 29 minutes when Daler Kuzyayev (centre) scored
His long-range strike proved too much for De Vries – who will be upset at not stopping the shot
But the Zenit players wouldn’t have cared as they celebrated wildly their second goal
The important thing from Celtic’s perspective was not to concede a second in short order. Kokorin, anonymous in Glasgow, looked set to do just that until De Vries belatedly marched from his line to claim a troubling ball over the top.
Paredes, the £25million Argentinian, was running the show. He drew a foul from McGregor 30 yards from goal and took command of the dead ball situation. De Vries was relieved to see it graze the roof of his net.
Celtic’s occasional promise on the counter attack tended to fall down either through a lack of a final ball or Zenit’s cynicism. Kuzyaev and Paredes had their names taken, both for crunching fouls on James Forrest.
It took 27 minutes for the turnaround to be completed. Again, the manner of the concession was meek.
Working a short throw-in, Anton Zabolotny found Kuzyaev advanced but posing no obvious threat. As he rolled the ball onto his right foot 25 yards out, still the danger seemed remote.
It was a decent strike but was eminently saveable. De Vries knew as much as soon as the ball flew past his outstretched left arm on route to the back of the net. So much for avenging the seven goals he lost in the Nou Camp last season. A truly disastrous night was now in danger of unfolding.
Eboue Kouassi didn’t help matters by becoming the third booking of the night for a rash challenge on Zenit skipper Domenico Cristico. With that went the Ivorian’s composure.
James Forrest (right) was Celtic’s one bright attacking spark before he was substituted
Roberto Mancini barks out some instructions to his Zenit side as the match unfolds
Only Moussa Dembele’s stationing on the near post prevented Emiliano Rigoni scoring a third directly from a corner. The interval didn’t arrive a moment too soon for the visitors.
To the surprise of no one, Tom Rogic replaced Kouassi during it. The Australian made a telling introduction by feeding Ntcham only for the Frenchman to rather panic and drag a decent chance wide of the far post.
Celtic were at least asking questions. When Forrest won a corner after dazzling Criscito down the right, Ntcham’s corner gave Ajer half a chance of landing the all-important goal. Alas, the Norwegian couldn’t get sufficient purchase on the header.
Sensing a glimmer of hope, Rodgers’ summoned Scott Sinclair to replace McGregor. But before the switch could be made, the tie was effectively over.
Simunovic did well to repel an initial cross by Zabolotny only for the ball to land at Ivanovic’s feet. The Serbian’s low cross was menacing. Mikael Lustig didn’t spot Kokorin running off his shoulder and the Russian international buried the chance from four yards.
We’d seen 68 minutes elapse before Andrei Lunev was forced to make a meaningful save. It stemmed from excellent wing play by Forrest. Ntcham’s consequent strike was much too central, though.
Forrest then bowed out with Charly Musonda representing Rodgers’ last throw of the dice.
Rogic and Sinclair did succeed in warming Lunev’s gloves but they never truly stretched Zenit’s custodian. After all the promise of the first leg, that rather typified Celtic’s night.