Benfica travelled to Germany to take on Bayern Munich for the First Leg of the Champions League quarter-finals on Tuesday night. Fresh from their impressive 5-1 humbling of 4th placed Braga on Friday and, having won their last eight games in all competitions, the Lisbon giants were hoping for a sound performance at the Allianz Arena. And with a return leg to take place at the Estádio da Luz next week, there was much to be had for Benfica if they could keep it tight.

Rui Vitória named an attack-minded line-up for this game, keeping faith with the starting XI which beat Braga. Jonas partnered Kostas Mitroglou up top while Renato Sanches and Ljubomir Fejsa would occupy the central midfield. Ederson continued between the sticks in the absence of the injured Júlio César and 21-year-old Swedish international, Victor Lindelöf, continued to partner Jardel in the centre of defence. It was left to Eliseu and André Almeida to attempt to nullify the wide threat.

First Half

This game began with the inevitable as Bayern enjoyed the lion’s share of possession. And it wasn’t long before it bore fruits for the Germans. Bernat received the ball out on the left and the Spaniard had time and space to pick his spot with a cross which found the head of Arturo Vidal. The Chilean managed to get ahead of his marker, Eliseu, and head home powerfully past Ederson to make it 1-0 after just 2 minutes.

Bayern’s use of the with of the pitch was causing issues for Benfica’s full-backs and, on 10 minutes, Bayern were busy testing the Benfica rearguard again. This time the threat came from the right where Douglas Costa cut inside from a wide position. With Eliseu rapidly closing the Brazilian down, he released a low drive but this was comfortably dealt with by his compatriot, Ederson.

Benfica did manage to create their first half chance about 10 minutes later. André Almeida found himself with time to angle a cross from the right towards Kostas Mitroglou. The Greek striker, ironically brought up in Germany, tried to direct his header goalwards but ultimately was unable to trouble Manuel Neuer who watched it sail harmlessly wide.

Just moments later, Benfica found themselves on the back foot again as Bayern went on the attack. A clever piece of skill by Thiago saw him dink the ball over the top of the Benfica defence from the edge of the box. With the back four playing for offside, Thomas Müller took advantage and snuck around the back. With the German international in space, he opted to take the shot on by way of a first-time volley which was well saved by Ederson. Benfica were living dangerously.

On the half hour, Benfica saw a spell of possession which culminated in finding Nico Gaitán on the left. His low ball into the Bayern box was blocked by the arm of the diving Philipp Lahm. Gaitán appealed for a penalty but play was waved on and the Argentine retrieved the loose ball, teeing up Eliseu for a fierce drive from outside the box. The left-back’s effort sailed well over the bar.

Ederson was having a busy first half and had already distinguished himself when he was called into action again on 33 minutes. After Ljubomir Fejsa had fouled Franck Ribéry on the edge of the box, the free-kick was taken by Thiago. The Spanish international conjured up another beautifully weighted dink over the Benfica wall and Thomas Müller again stole in behind the rearguard. Fortunately for the Lisbon side, Ederson was again down quickly, this time at the feet the German. The stand-in stopper was proving his worth.

There was still time for another good Bayern chance before the break. Arturo Vidal was again the beneficiary as Thomas Müller turned provider. His cross from the right found the head of the Chilean who had got in between Lindelöf and Almeida in the middle. Fortunately for Benfica, Vidal could only head the ball downwards into the turf and the momentum forced it to bound up and over the bar to keep the status quo.

Second Half

Despite Bayern continuing to enjoy possession at the beginning of the second half, the first real chance after the break went to the visitors. Jonas made a nuisance of himself in the Bayern box and managed to create space for himself by turning Bayern defender, David Alaba. The Brazilian then got his shot away but it was blocked by Neuer in what was a golden opportunity for Benfica.

There was worse to come for Jonas just moments later when he received a yellow card for a foul on Arturo Vidal in the middle third. The booking means that Benfica’s top scorer this season will miss the return leg in Lisbon next week.

Jonas was again involved on 64 minutes with possibly Benfica’s best chance of the game. A low cross into the box from André Almeida found Jonas with space but his shot was blocked by Bayern substitute, Javi Martínez. The rebound then found its ways back to Jonas again but this time he fired well over the bar in what can be considered a real let off for the hosts.

As the German fans’ frustrations began to grow, Bayern had to wait until 81 minutes for a real sight on goal in the second half. Franck Ribery again caused problems on the left, this time employing trickery to evade the challenges of Almeida and Gaitán  Working his way into the box at pace, the Frenchman unleashed a low shot towards the near post but Ederson was equal to it once more.

And just before the end of normal time, Bayern had possibly their best chance to wrap it up. A superb through ball by Vidal caught the Benfica defence flat-footed. Robert Lewandowski ran in behind and tried to slip the ball back across goal for Philipp Lahm. The Pole’s pass was overhit and the chance was gone as Lahm struggled to keep the ball from reaching the byline.

On A Knife Edge

And so Benfica go into the second leg on home turf next Wednesday with just the one goal deficit to overturn. If you'd offered that to any Benfiquista before tonight, they'd surely have taken it. They had to be patient for the most part, Bayern seeing 68% of possession over the first leg. However, the Lisbon side caused problems for Bayern at times tonight and, even without Jonas, will fancy that they can get at the Bayern rearguard.

The central defensive pairing of Jardel and Lindelöf were superb for Benfica in Munich. The second half was especially strong from the back four as they looked to snuff out the wide threats of Ribery and Costa. They also managed to keep the prolific Robert Lewandowski quiet. But special mention must also go to Ederson who was superb in goal and was Benfica's saviour in the first half, especially. 

There will doubtless be a full house at the Luz next week and the Benfiquista's will create a hostile atmosphere for Munich to come into. Munich are a top side but it's a brave person who bets against this Benfica team this season...

 

by Paul Gellard

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  • Guest - Andre/UK
    Rated 5 out of 5 stars

    Well said Andre but I think its more than that. It not simply underestimating, it is just disrespectful. Quite frankly, who is Man City? A mid to bottom level team until oil-sheik money came in and bought them players. They have no history, their impact on the world stage is zippo. Yet, we have to hear this nonsense all the time.

    When it comes to the top teams on the planet there is no doubt money buys skill but the gulf between Benfica and Bayern is not measured in kilometers (as the doofus commentators would have us believe and the trolls we get on the site) its measured in centimeters. A mistake here, a fantastic shot there, that is all it takes to win games. You could argue Benfica should of beaten Porto in their derby yet they lost and Sporting might of deserved better vs Benfica but didnt. The difference was the tiny plays.

    Wolfsburg just beat Madrid and people are running from under rocks, "OMG REAL LOST TO WOLFS"...ridiculous. As if Wolfsburg is some tiny club from New Zealand. They are a solid squad who has underachieved domestically.

    There is a systematic bias with the top 3 leagues and the "rest". Look at who gets nominated for the balon D'or, never anyone outside the big clubs, only when the SAME player moves to a big club does he get nominated, even if his stats are the same (Falcao Porto vs Falcao Atletico anyone?)

    I don't have a club that I love more than the other in Portugal, I truly love the league and cheer for all our teams. I hope Benfica crush Bayern and send them packing. They are going back to the Luz only down 1-0. That is a fantastic result considering most persons expectation of Benfica at the start of the season. They have nothing to lose and I hope they play like that. There is potential here for something magical.

    Wolfs knocks out Real even better! PSG-Man City - money clubs with plastic fans and no history.

    from Burlington, ON, Canada
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  • @Andre/UK and SupremoGino: I really enjoy reading your comments on PortuGoal. We are on the lookout for more contributors at PlanetBenfica... If you are interested, please email info@planetbenfica.com for more details. Cheers!

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  • Guest - Mario

    @SupremoGino Bayern have never defeated Barcelona with Guardiola at the helm. The 4-0 victory you refer to occurred in Jupp Heynckes last year in which Bayern won everything there was to win; they defeated Barcelona 7-0 on aggregate. At that time I thought Bayern would go on to dominate world football for the next 3 or 4 years but by bringing in Guardiola they abandoned that cut throat style of play.
    Bayern has been out of sorts, they weren't eliminated in the previous round, in my opinion, because Juventus went into a shell in the second half instead of playing football.

    It's unfortunate that Benfica didn't score. I can't envision Bayern not scoring in Lisbon but then again I, like many, thought that Benfica would lose by 3 or 4. What was troubling to me in this game was how wide open the Bayern wingers were, especially Ribery, that must change. For Benfica to be successful they must press up high, not allowing Bayern to easily establish itself in the Benfica half, and they must make quick transitions to attack when they get possession. It will be difficult but not impossible.

    from Canada
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  • Guest - Ivo

    Unjust result and biased media coverage for sure, but that's unfortunately been the norm for many years now when Portuguese and other less wealthy clubs are concerned. As for Bayern playing in a "one-team league", I don't buy that. Dortmund are only five points back and there is plenty of quality throughout the league. Just look at the latest Wolfsburg result against Real were they could have easily won by three or four. And even Leverkusen is a strong side. The Bundesliga may not be super competitive at the top because of how strong Bayern are, but the league still has several other very strong sides. The fact Bayern are doing so well in a strong league speaks to how good Bayern are and to Pep's quality.

    And I think it's a bit harsh to say Guardiola has underperformed at Bayern. He won four trophies in his first season: league title, cup, UEFA super cup and fifa club world cup, followed by a league title the following year. And in the CL he made it to the semifinals twice. If the only metric of success is winning the CL, then I guess he's a failure, because he's won pretty much everything else there is to win over two seasons, and he'll only add to his trophy cabinet after this season with a likely league title possibly UCL title.

    I'm cheering for Benfica to win, but let's not play the victim card too much. If people have a seemingly condescending attitude towards Portuguese clubs in these fixtures, it's because there is some basis in reality:

    - Benfica vs. Bayern head-to-head all time is 3 wins for Bayern, 0 for Benfica and 2 draws. Bayern scored 11 goals in those matches compared to 2 for Benfica. So is it really that crazy for people to think Bayern should be beating a team like Benfica? I'm sure Sporting's record against similar teams is even worse, and I'm ok with that (just in anticipation of some of you accusing me of bias).

    That being said, I could see Benfica winning in the second round at the Luz. Jonas was able to expose Bayern on one really clear occasion and I'm sure he'll have some opportunities to do the same in the second leg.

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  • Guest - Ivo

    And by Jonas scoring in the second leg, I mean Mitroglou or whoever else replaces him.

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  • Guest - Mario

    @Ivo, Guardiola took over the best club in the world; the fans would be outraged if the domestic success didn't continue. How can Bayern not win domestically when you take into account that they have taken the best players, Goetze and Lewandowski, of their principal rival Dortmund? Let's face it the Bundesliga is highly skewed in favour of Bayern. Guardiola is not a failure, but let's be honest the odds of him failing with such a club in such a league were very low to begin with. What I feel is that it was a mistake to change the style of play that had made Bayern dominant internationally.

    from Canada
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  • The tournaments have become more and more difficult. The money involved has allowed clubs to hang onto players longer and continue to grow within the squad. The talent isn't disappearing and retooling having to occur sooner.
    There's been plenty of talk about the "Big" following/money/marketing/merchandising clubs creating their own league. It's just beginning to look bad when they lose to "lesser" clubs from "lesser" leagues. A set up like the US leagues, where there's no danger of relegation. Its kind of sad to hear.

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  • Guest - Portagee Dude

    Bayern's Wingers were so open because Benfica asked their fullbacks to stay back and in position for much of the game and both Sanches /Fesja played close together and further back on the bitch. By design they gave Bayern all the width they wanted. They weren't going to allow them to beat them through the middle of the field with that tik-taka.

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  • Guest - Mario

    I suspected that the wingers being left wide open was by design. In my original comment that I wasn't able to post I said: " I don't know if it was by design or not but it must stop." For some reason depending on the time of day I can't post a comment on this website. I get the message, I believe it said: " Invalid token error." At first I thought it was a limitation on the number of characters but apparently not.

    Anyways, that tactic backfired at the beginning, that's how Bayern scored their first goal. It's a dangerous way to play the game but perhaps because of the opposition and limitations that's what Rui Vitoria chose to do. It's fortunate Robben won't be playing.

    from Canada
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  • Guest - Tom Kundert

    @Mario thanks for the message about the Login / Commenting problem. You're not the first person to point it out. We're working to try and fix it. Apologies for the inconvenience caused.

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