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.
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’