Borussia Dortmund 4-0 Benfica (agg. 4-1)

Under the headline of “Two-speed Europe” the director of Portuguese sports paper A Bola, Vítor Serpa, writes in today’s edition: “there is an increasingly large gulf between the best European teams and the best Portuguese teams. There may be exceptions to the rule, but they are only exceptions that disguise the reality for those who don’t want to see it.”

The editorial was written in the wake of yesterday’s 4-0 drubbing of Benfica by Borussia Dortmund. Given the difference in class shown in both legs between the Portuguese champions (and current leaders of the Liga NOS) and the team lying 3rd in the Bundesliga (13 points behind Bayern Munich), it is difficult to argue with that stark assessment.

Benfica’s 1-0 victory over Dortmund three weeks ago in Lisbon had given Rui Vitória and his side real hope that they could reach the quarter-finals for a second successive year. But it took the Germans less than four minutes to level the tie on aggregate, as Aubameyang, who was left criminally unmarked at a corner, headed into the net.

Instead of signalling an avalanche of attacking play from the hosts, a cautious Borussia were prepared to wait for their moment to strike, allowing Benfica to keep them at bay relatively comfortably. The visitors even had the chance to snatch a vital away goal soon after the break as the ball broke to Cervi inside the box, but the Argentine took too long to get his shot off and was crowded out.

Lethal Aubameyang

That was as good as it got for the Eagles, as Dortmund turned up the heat and scored three goals without reply, Aubameyang making up for his profligacy in Lisbon with a hat-trick and Pulisic scoring the other.

Benfica fans may point to a possible red card for Dembélé in the first half, Cervi’s miss or Rui Vitória’s unadventurous team selection as evidence that things could have been different, but truth be told the quality of play between the two sides over the two legs more than justified the final aggregate score.

“There is an insurmountable difference in the quality of the players and nothing can be done about that,” writes Serpa. “Those who have the most money buy the best. Then there is the worrying difference in the intensity of play. No Portuguese team can get close to the overall intensity of play that Bayern, Dortmund, Barcelona, Real Madrid or Juventus show over the ninety minutes.” Again, one cannot argue with the journalist.

Benfica coach Rui Vitória and president Luís Filipe Vieira have both expressed the long-term goal is to get their club to a position where they can compete to win the Champions League. On this season’s evidence, Benfica – and all of Portugal’s top teams – have an awful lot of work to do if this is to become reality.

by Tom Kundert


Borussia Dortmund: Bürki, Piszczek, Sokratis (Ginter, 88′), Bartra; Durm, Gonzalo Castro, Weigl, Schmelzer, Dembélé (Kagawa, 81′), Pulisic, Aubameyang (Schürrle, 86′)

Benfica: Ederson, Nélson Semedo, Luisão, Lindelöf, Eliseu, Samaris (Zivkovic, 74′), André Almeida; Salvio (Jonas, 64′), Pizzi, Cervi (Raúl Jiménez, 82′), Mitroglou


[1-0] Aubameyang, 4′

[2-0] Pulisic, 59’

[3-0] Aubameyang, 61’

[4-0] Aubameyang, 85’ your social media marketing partner

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  • Guest - Andre/UK

    Well Dortmund deservedly went through to the quarters, there can be no argument they were the better team overall. I think 4-0 was a little harsh on Benfica last night as we were more in the match than that scoreline suggests, but as stated in the article the German teams are normally ruthless with the scoring chances that come their way. No shame at all in losing to Dortmund, a very impressive team who I would rate as a top 6 European team at the moment. Very difficult for any Portuguese club (who always have to sell their best players every summer) to beat a top 6 European team over 2 legs. Of course it can be done, but it's very difficult. And at the very least you definitely need to have all your key players available. Benfica's injury crisis this season shows no signs of halting: in the first leg we were missing our best forward (and others) and last night we were missing our best DM (and others). The moment I saw Fejsa was missing the match, I knew it was a real uphill task for us given Dortmund's attacking potential.

    Nevertheless, I still think Vitoria got his team selection wrong. He was correct to change to a 4-3-3 and to have an extra player in midfield to face up to Dortmund's impressive midfield, but he didn't select all the best available players for the particular positions, imo. Andre Almeida is a decent fullback, but he's an emergency CM, who should only play there really in emergency situations. Vitoria should have been braver and played Filipe Augusto instead. Despite being relatively inexperienced, at least Augusto is a natural CM and way better than Almeida in that position. While on both wings, Vitoria also got it wrong. Salvio starting? He's been very poor in recent months, no intensity in his play, too casual and loses the ball way too often. While Cervi has been on the bench for the last few months, yet starts last night in such a big game? Zivkovic (the best crosser/assister we have among the wingers) and Rafa (quick and direct, ideal for a counter attacking approach) should have both clearly started on the wings.

    Anyway it's done, no point crying over spilt milk. I fully agree with the point in the article that the Portuguese clubs this season have less quality relative to the big shark Euro clubs, and neither Benfica nor Porto were really going to challenge for the CL this season. We have to find a way of somehow being able to hang on to key players longer and not always rapidly selling them off as soon as a big offer comes in, if we really want to compete with the rich clubs of Europe in the CL. In any case, the silver lining for Benfica and exiting the CL, is we can now focus entirely on what was always the main objective for this season, and that's to defend our domestic Liga title.

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  • Guest - jon/usa

    I agree that the 4-0 scoreline is perhaps a bit misleading when you consider that Benfica were very much in it until half way through the second half, but at the end of the day, I'd argue that the 4-1 aggregate scoreline was a pretty fair reflection of the tie as a whole. Dortmund were the much better side in Lisbon, but we finished the only clear-cut chance we created all game. The second leg was far more balanced during the opening 60 minutes, but Dortmund ruthlessly exposed two lapses in concentration in quick succession which ultimately killed off the tie at 3-0.

    One could argue that had Jonas, Fejsa, and Grimaldo were fully fit, and had Zivkovic gotten the start ahead of the increasingly frustrating Salvio, we probably would have given the Germans a much better fight -- we more than matched Bayern Munich last year with a squad that was more or less just as strong in overall quality. However, we simply lack the financial resources to compete with the elite club sides in Europe's top four leagues. Imagine if we went into this round of 16 tie with the likes of Angel Di Maria, Nico Gaitan, Renato Sanches, Nemanja Matic, David Luiz, Axel Witsel, etc at our disposal. We would undoubtedly have one of the top 10 squads in all of Europe. Unfortunately, we simply do not have the economic stability to be able to hold on to our best players.

    I would also like to congratulate Dortmund and Barcelona for getting the job done in the second leg. As much as I would have loved to have seen Benfica progress to the quarter finals, we all know that winning the Champions League is virtually if you are not among the top 4 or 5 clubs in Europe. From a neutral's perspective, you want to see the best of the best -- genuine contenders like Barca and Dortmund -- in the latter stages of the competition.

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  • Guest - SupremoGino

    On the basis of play over the two legs - Benfica did not deserve to qualify.. obviously. However that foul committed in the 1st half was easily a yellow card and subsequently should have lead to the Dortmund's player expulsion and Benfica would have a great chance at 1-1 playing 11 vs 10 for nearly an hour. I heard the commentators make stupid excuses like "oh well no referee wants to give a red card and dramatically impact the tie at this stage of the competition" or it wouldn't be in the "spirit of the game". Come on that is bullsh** That was two quick yellow cards in succession. It reminded me of what happened in Porto's CL match when the referee showed no hesitation sending off Alex Telles after his two illegal challenges. Where is the consistency? Only when Portuguese teams are the culprits I guess. This is stuff nobody likes to talk about or elaborate on but it's true and it always happens when we reach this point in the CL.

    Now this Benfica is not as strong in the last few years. Dortmund's pressing made us look like we were a man down. Benfica don't have the stamina to match. As Jon stated. a team with Di Maria, Gaitan, Enzo, Sanches, Lima etc would have given a better run. We had such energetic, technically gifted players. Even with just Gaitan and Sanches we pushed Bayern to the limit. It would be nice if we kept our players for a season or two longer once the potential was realized but I guess all that matters in Portugal is a never ending race between three teams.

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  • Guest - Jeremy

    It's little surprise Liga Nos teams struggle against Europe's elite teams, but losing their best players every year undermines there ability to make a credible
    challenge. But the gap is not insurmountable as Sporting Lisbon's plucky campaign proved coming within a few minutes of victory at the Bernabeu and
    Pushing Dortmund home and away in two legs separated by the odd goal in both matches. Last season Benfica lost 3-2 on aggregate against Bayernmunich
    In the quarter finals to show that they can perform at the highest level - and Porto have shown that shrewd recruitment and ambition can occasionally reap
    Rewards. Benfica should be a European footballing giant, with the right players and leadership they would not be that far away.

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  • Guest - Andre/UK

    Some add ons: SupremoGino I agree completely how the decisions always favor either the "bigger" (or rather the richer) teams or the teams from the bigger leagues. It just always seems to happen, almost without fail. PSG for example, should have had clear 2 penalties awarded yesterday against (UEFA's darlings) Barcelona, while the first Barca penalty was very dubious too. I still haven't forgotten the Europa league final in 2014 between Benfica and Sevilla, when it was scandalous how many big decisions (3 real penalty claims plus Beto cheating on TWO penalty "saves" in the shootout by running off his line before the penalty takers made contact with the ball) went against us. I was in Spain on the night of the final, and even the Spanish studio pundits in their post-match analysis conceded that Benfica were robbed in that final. Yeah such is the corruption in football and in the major institutions like UEFA and FIFA, that it's all a money making business nowadays and the bigger clubs and leagues bring in more revenue and publicity, so clearly get favored.

    But back to the match, we were second best throughout and therefore didn't deserve to go through. Dortmund dominated the central midfield and therefore both matches in general. Central midfield is such a crucial area because normally that area shapes the pattern of what happens in the match. And without any shadow of a doubt, we simply haven't been strong enough in central midfield all season long. In Liga matches our CM has been good enough for us to win most games (even though I find it's our attacking firepower that often wins the matches), but I think in the champions league this season and especially in the matches with Napoli and Dortmund our average CM was really exposed. The fact that Andre Almeida played in CM in such a big match last night, speaks volumes of our lack of options in that area.

    To me we've really lacked two important elements of CM this season: 1.) physical power and aggression. At times it even seems like average Liga teams have more aggression and energy in the middle when they play us and win most of the 50-50s. Fejsa can provide some of that aggression, but he's just always injured, literally! 2.) creativity and playmaking ability through the middle. What Pablo Aimar used to provide, basically! Our creativity is really limited to the wings and wide areas, and there just hasn't been enough of it from central areas. Pizzi has tried his best, but it's just not his natural position and he's a lot more effective from wide areas. The top transfer priority for the club this summer imo, is to buy two quality central midfielders (each providing one of these 2 details I mention we have lacked this season). That way Pizzi can move back to the wings, where he's so much better. With a stronger CM we'd have more balance in our play and would thus be able to have a better crack at the Champions League.

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  • Guest - Danny

    2 reasons why Benfica will not conquor Europe biggest prize...
    1.Champions league is funded by the big four leagues in Europe (T.V Rights paid) and thus makes teams outside that realm such as Benfica etc always getting the shaft in the grey area of the rules during a match... Porto won Champs in 2004 because they were stacked on the pitch and JoMo told PDC not to cash in on personal which brings me to point # two

    2. Benfica this year stated there losses at hundreds of millions of dollars (the 2nd most debt ridden team in the world!??) This team is a public traded company which has to show there numbers and how they got to that number ? (i am investigating ;) )
    when you factor in players sales, 450 mil tv deal for three years and many other sponsors etc plus factor in they do not pay there players no where near the top 15 teams in the World in wages???
    For a club that whats to be a global brand something is very wrong here,to come up with false numbers to justify cash sales is not what Benfica ought to be
    an audit of the clubs finances has to take place fast and rid the people who profit from making this club a real true power
    Silva and Sanches should of never been sold so early to me it was the biggest crime

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  • Guest - Joao

    The Bela Guttman curse still holds true. No European Cup success since :)

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  • Guest - Steve Smith

    Hard to see this changing in the short term. What will happen is that once in a while a shock will happen. When Liverpool (my team) won their fifth title in 2005 in Istanbul (and I had the pleasure of being there!) they finished fifth in the league that season and rode their luck against the finest team in Europe at that time.
    Otherwise Bayern and the 3 Spanish clubs will be the winners of this competition for some time to come. Finances come into it and indeed the standard of the league you play in which means the big three don't come across big tests to often

    from Warrington, UK
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