THIS was always going to be Derby County's toughest test of pre-season.
Top Russian side Zenit St Petersburg are only a week away from starting their Champions' League campaign, and at times it showed.
Derby had plenty of good moments, as well as chances, and gave Zenit problems.
It was another good workout, more valuable minutes on the pitch, but they could not find a goal against opponents who have conceded only one in four friendlies against German, Belgian, French, and now English opposition.
Zenit scored in each half to win 2-0 in the first of Derby's two games of their Austrian tour. This one was played at SC Kalsdorf's Stadium, Sports Zentrum Kalsdorf, just outside Graz.
A fine display by Rams goalkeeper Kelle Roos denied Zenit further goals and he has accepted the opportunity to impress.
Number one Lee Grant is absent as he continues to work his way back from knee surgery and Roos has started the friendlies and shown himself as serious competition.
George Thorne completing his move to Derby at the weekend was a huge boost for the club and supporters, and he started against Zenit.
He anchored a three-man midfield and was joined by Jeff Hendrick and Craig Bryson while the back four was the one that lined up in the victory over Notts County.
Zenit's team was packed with international footballers, as it was when they beat French club Lille on Saturday. Seven of the starters were on World Cup duty this summer including Belgian midfielder Axel Witsel.
Ex-Chelsea and Tottenham boss André Villas-Boas is the man in charge of Zenit, who have finished runners-up in the Russian Premier League in the past two seasons but their focus is on next week's Champions' League qualifying tie against AEL Limassol of Cyprus.
Derby's line up featured seven full internationals and there was a good number of Rams fans at the game backing their team. The giant "Super Rams" flag was also draped across a block of seats.
Torrential rain before kick off and during the first half left the playing surface spongey and not easy underfoot but Zenit tested Roos early on, Cristian Ansaidi's fierce drive was pushed away by the goalkeeper before Craig Forsyth blocked Danny's goal-bound effort.
Forsyth was then seen at the other end of the pitch, where he offers an attacking threat pushing forward from left back. His centre tested Zenit who needed Yuriy Lodyguin to make a fine save to turn Jamie Ward's strike over.
Credit to both teams for a bright opening.
Forsyth had been heavily involved and he conceded a penalty after 14 minutes when he bundled over Alexandre Kerzhakov. The decision was slightly harsh on the Rams' defender but Roos dived to his left to beat away Danny's spot kick, an excellent stop.
Hendrick has caught the eye pre-season.
The Republic of Ireland international finished last season strongly and looks determined to win a starting role in the face of fierce competition in the middle of the pitch.
He showed his strong running and then the threat he is capable of posing opponents in the final third, his low shot fizzed in and Lodyguin needed to reacted sharply to gather.
But Zenit struck first after 33 minutes.
Ansaidi's centre from the left deflected into the path of Witsel who drilled his finish low and wide of Roos, who had little chance.
Thorne had twice needed treatment before Zenit scored and the Rams' new signing was replaced by John Eustace.
The last thing a club wants is to see its big summer acquisition limping, as Thorne was, but he was taken off as a precaution.
Witsel is a top player, as we already knew, and his quality was there to see but the Rams gave as good as they got first half.
The rain poured again second half and Derby thanked Roos when he beat out an effort from Alexandre Ryazantsev after neat build up play by Zenit, who started to control matters.
Derby made a change around the hour and took the opportunity to have another look at trialist Alasane Toure, who came on for Cyrus Christie. Toure, the 25-year-old RC Lens player, went to right back.
Simon Dawkins tried to spark Derby with his quick feet and direct running but Zenit broke and Ivan Solovyev sent a low shot flashing wide after neat movement off the ball had seen him get in behind Derby's back four.
Derby introduced Will Hughes and Johnny Russell but Zenit looked more likely to add a second goal and Solovyev and Salomon Rondon went close before Roos denied Dimitriy Skopintsev.
The second goal Zenit had threatened for some time arrived four minutes from time, and from a lovely move.
The last two contributions belonged to substitute Andrey Arshavin, who cleverly back-heeled the ball into Solovyev who finished low and wide of Roos.
DERBY COUNTY: Roos; Christie (Toure, 61), Keogh, Buxton, Forsyth; Hendrick, Thorne (Eustace, 34), Bryson (Hughes, 71); Ward (Russell, 71), Martin, Dawkins.
Other subs: Etheridge (gk), L Naylor, O'Brien, Sammon, Bennett, Freeman.
ZENIT ST PETERSBURG: Lodyguin; Smolnikov, Lombaerts, Neto, Ansaidi, Tymoshchuk, Fayzulin, Witsel, Shatov, Danny, Kerzhakov.
Subs: Solovyev, Khodzhaniyazov, Skopintsev, Rodic, Troyanov, Pronichev, Anyukov, Criscito, Zinkov, Arshavin, Rondon, Hubocan, Vasyutin.
Referee: Mr Rieberer