- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 9, 2014

MONACO (AP) - Monaco qualified for the knockout phase of the Champions League by defeating Zenit St. Petersburg 2-0 to finish top of Group C Tuesday.

Tunisia centerback Aymen Abdennour headed home a free kick from Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco in the 63rd minute. Brazilian fullback Fabinho added a second goal in the 89th by firing a low strike past goalkeeper Yuri Lodygin.

“In August, Monaco was considered the weakest team of the group by everybody, even in France,” Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim said. “The players gave a strong response today to their critics, especially in France.”

Monaco only needed a draw to qualify for the last 16 while Zenit had to win.

“We are very frustrated with the elimination,” Zenit coach Andre Villas-Boas said. “It’s very difficult to break into the defense of Monaco.”

Monaco has conceded only one goal in six games to finish the group stage with the tightest defense in the Champions League.

Zenit dominated possession in the first half but was denied space by a defensive-minded Monaco. The Russian club’s few chances came from set pieces, forcing Monaco goalkeeper Danijel Subasic to punch away a free kick from Brazil forward Hulk in the 28th and stop a header by defender Nicolas Lombaerts from a corner in the 41st.

The hosts showed more ambition in the second half. Bulgarian striker Dimitar Berbatov had a side-footed effort blocked in the 54th before Abdennour scored with a downward header.

As Zenit pushed for an equalizer in the closing minutes, Portugal playmaker Joao Moutinho led a counterattack to play Fabinho in for the last goal.

Monaco last reached the knockout phase of the Champions League in 2005. Zenit qualified for the Europa League after finishing third in Group C behind Bayer Leverkusen, which was held 0-0 at Benfica.

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