There were differing fortunes for Portugal’s two remaining representatives in Europe in a memorable midweek of European club competition action. After Porto’s thrilling victory over Roma, Benfica turned in a disappointing display to lose 1-0 in Croatia against Dinamo Zagreb, also losing in-form striker Seferovic to injury.
Elsewhere, Diogo Dalot was a central figure as Manchester United produced a remarkable comeback to beat Paris Saint-Germain in their Champions League quarter-final tie and advance to the last eight. Meanwhile, the Champions League said goodbye to Raphaël Guerreiro and Borussia Dortmund, while Gonçalo Guedes, Mário Rui, Cédric Soares and Gonçalo Paciência were all in action in the Europa League.
Dinamo Zagreb 1-0 Benfica
After the euphoria of going top of the league following the weekend victory over Porto, Benfica were brought back down to earth with a bump as they were well beaten by Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia in the Europa League on Thursday night. Starting the tie as favourites, punters at williamcode.co.uk will now think hard before betting on the Portuguese league leaders making it to the quarter-finals.
As in the previous round against Galatasaray, Bruno Lage was unafraid of handing responsibility to Benfica’s youngsters, with five Seixal academy graduates in the starting line-up: Rúben Dias, Ferro, Florentino, Gedson and João Félix.
And the Eagles were almost off to a dream start as a clever Félix back-heel played in Grimaldo, but the Spanish left-back could not beat Dinamo goalkeeper Livakovic when clean through.
That was as good as it got for the Portuguese side as the hosts, roared on by a typically passionate Croatian crowd, took full control of proceedings. The impressive Dani Olmo forced Vlachodimos into a sharp save on 19 minutes, the Benfica goalkeeper diving to his right to push a fierce shot around the post.
Benfica suffered a setback on the half-hour mark as Seferovic went down injured and had to be substituted. With no like-for-like replacement, Franco Cervi was brought on and João Félix pushed further up the pitch. Soon afterwards things got worse for Benfica as Rúben Dias brought down Olmo in the box and Bruno Petkovic dispatched the resulting penalty into the net. With the Eagles wobbling alarmingly, Dinamo almost doubled their lead on the stroke of half time, Vlachodimos coming to the rescue to win a one-on-one against Gojak.
The second half was a largely uneventful affair, with Benfica unable to get anything going from an attacking sense, while Dinamo also struggled to create openings, Orsic firing efforts over the bar at the start and end of the second 45 minutes. Benfica come away from Croatia still in the tie, but it will need a significant improvement to make the last eight of the competition.
"A magical night" - Dalot
The biggest story in Europe this week without doubt was Manchester United's surprise 3-1 win over Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes. The French champions were 2-0 winners at Old Trafford during the first leg in England, giving them a strong platform to finish the tie on home turf. PSG's chances were given a further boost as United arrived in Paris with a squad depleted by injuries.
However, two goals from Romelu Lukaku and a stoppage-time penalty scored by Marcus Rashford gave United the advantage on away goals and booked their place in the last eight for the first time since 2014. The match saw another impressive showing from Portuguese youngster Diogo Dalot, who was introduced ten minutes before half time in place of Eric Bailly with the Ivorian defender struggling with injury and appearing a liability for the Red Devils. The progress of Dalot and United in the Champions League can be tracked and bet on at this website.
As was the case during United's weekend victory over Southampton, Dalot adapted to the game immediately, showing confidence to carry the ball and beat opponent players down the right side. Indeed, it would be a forward burst from the former Porto youngster that led to the game's vital moment. Dalot's shot struck the arm of Presnel Kimpembe, and after consulting VAR the Slovakian referee Damir Skomina awarded United a penalty.
Rashford stepped up to slot home, sending United through to become the first team in the history of the European Cup to overturn a 2-0 home defeat in the first leg. Dalot was asked after the match about the game's defining incident, telling reporters: "Yeah, I had the shot so I saw it. It was a penalty, but nowadays the rules are changing so we have to wait for VAR and I think the referee did well. Fortunately we scored and it was an unbelievable game and it was fantastic to be part of it."
The win means United have won 14 from 17 matches since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced José Mourinho as United manager in December, with the only defeat coming in the first leg of the tie with PSG. "I'm not surprised because we believe in ourselves," Dalot continued. "I think for most people it is a surprise, but it is football and we need to believe in ourselves because if we don't believe in ourselves, who will?
"It just proves what football and what this club is: it is comebacks and always playing for the win. We did a magical night tonight."
Keep your family close! Anything is possible! ❤ pic.twitter.com/yjxUbiSgkz— Diogo Dalot (@DalotDiogo) March 7, 2019
Guedes given runout
It was a somewhat low-key week for the other Portuguese players representing clubs in Europe. Raphaël Guerreiro was handed a start as Borussia Dortmund's worrying form continued with a 1-0 home defeat to Tottenham Hostpur, who progress 4-0 on aggregate.
There was better news in the Europa League, however, as Mário Rui's Napoli recorded a commanding 3-0 home win over Salzburg in the first leg of their last-16 tie. In one of the round's more eye-catching clashes, Inter held Frankfurt to a goalless draw in Germany, with both sides introducing their Portuguese for the final ten minutes: Gonçalo Paciência for the hosts and Cédric Soares for the Italians, who missed a penalty in the first half.
Gonçalo Guedes continues his bid to return to full fitness with his third start since missing two months of the season with an abdominal injury. The former Benfica man started for Valencia in their 2-1 home win over Russians Krasnodar. Fellow Spaniards Sevilla were held to a 2-2 draw at home by Czech side Slavia Prague, with Portuguese duo Daniel Carriço and André Silva unused substitutes for Sevilla.
By Sean Gillen & Tom Kundert