Benfica defeated Eintracht Frankfurt 4-2 in a highly entertaining Europa League quarter-final first leg at the Estádio da Luz.

João Félix was the star of the show with a hat-trick, but Eintracht will feel they have a chance to overturn the deficit in Frankfurt after playing 70 minutes with 10 men following Evan Ndicka’s straight red card. 

Eagles vs Eagles

It was all about the battle of the Eagles as Benfica took on Eintracht Frankfurt for the first time. Both managers appeared to be cautious with their starting lineups, Haris Seferovic on the bench for Benfica and Frankfurt manager Adi Hütter pushing Makoto Hasebe into a holding midfield role.

Luka Jovic missed two difficult chances early on as both teams struggled to find their rhythm. The game came to life in the 20th minute when a well worked team move saw Félix feed Gedson Fernandes in the box, he was taken down from behind by Evan Ndicka with referee Anthony Taylor issuing a straight red card and awarding a penalty.

19-year-old Félix took responsibility and buried it in the bottom corner to put the hosts in front. The movement from Felix and Gedson was causing Frankfurt all sorts of problems, justifying manager Bruno Lage’s decision to start Swiss striker Seferovic on the bench.

Ante Rebic earned himself a caution for dissent before having a shot deflected wide, but he would soon make amends by teeing up Jovic for the equaliser. Lubomir Fejsa dawdled on the ball, was robbed by Sebastian Rode with Rebic skipping past Rúben Dias and setting up Jovic who made no mistake.

Fierce Felix strike regains lead

Eintracht’s joy was short lived however, Frankfurt failing to close down Félix who unleashed a rocket into the bottom corner. Kevin Trapp made a despairing dive and got the slightest of touches on it, but the ferocity and swerve was too much to handle.

Franco Cervi saw a shot from close range tipped over by Trapp before the visitors had an equaliser ruled out for offside on the stroke of half-time. A well worked free kick routine saw Filip Kostic beat Odisseas Vlachodimos, but three Frankfurt players were offside including Danny da Costa who did enough to impede Benfica’s goalkeeper.

The second half began with Rafa hitting the post from an offside position but Benfica would soon make it 3-1. Luka Jovic failed to clear a routine corner which was steered towards goal by Félix, Rúben Dias with the simplest of tasks heading home from a yard out.

Three minutes later it was 4-1. A simple move down the left wing saw Alejandro Grimaldo square to an unmarked Félix, the rising star side footed home through the legs of Hasebe and Trapp with the floodgates threatening to open.

Lage replaced Rafa with Haris Seferovic and Adi Hütter took off Jovic for Jonathan de Guzman in a curious move for the visitors which would soon be vindicated. The changes kept coming as Pizzi replaced right-back Sébastien Corchia and former Porto striker Gonçalo Paciência came on for Rebic.

Paciência stuns home supporters

Félix collected a long goal kick and sent Seferovic through on goal which forced a fine save from Trapp, but out of nowhere Frankfurt pulled a goal back. A corner was met by Paciência who sent a looping header over Vlachomidos into the top corner with the home crowd stunned.

Kostic blazed over from a tight angle after being set up by Paciência with both managers making their final substitutions. Andreas Samaris made way for Andrija Zivkovic and Mijat Gacinovic replaced Sebastian Rode but there would be no further goals in an enthralling game of football.

It was a deceptive result as Benfica will be disappointed not to have put the tie to bed. They were close to going 5-1 up which would surely been an unassailable lead, but they allowed Frankfurt to narrow the gap which will give the German club hope of turning it around at the Waldstadion.

Eintracht showed tremendous courage to stay in the tie despite going a man down in the 20th minute. The likely return of Sébastien Haller shouldn’t be underestimated, expect the French striker to have an impact in front of what will be another capacity crowd and magical atmosphere in Frankfurt.

Man of the Match

No surprise here with João Félix the hat-trick hero as he announced himself to a wider audience. Many in Portugal have been aware of his talents in a breakout season, he was influential throughout, a joy to watch and added a few million onto this market value. 

The youngster caused Frankfurt frequent problems with his movement, intelligently finding space between the lines which made space for his teammates. Félix displayed confidence with the opening penalty and his second goal was a thing of beauty. He beat Jovic to assist Dias for Benfica's third, scored Benfica’s fourth and went close to another assist with Seferovic’s shot saved by Trapp.

Unfortunate not to see some playing time in Portugal’s recent UEFA 2020 European Championship qualifiers, it won’t be long before we see Félix earn his first senior international cap. 

Reaction

Benfica boss Bruno Lage was upbeat despite knowing his side had a great opportunity to take a commanding lead: "It's a very positive result for us; we played against a great team. When we were 4-1 up we could have controlled the match better." Rúben Dias shared a similar sentiment: "We played a great game against an extremely strong team that hadn't lost for a long time. It's true we could have gone 5-1 up through Seferovic and gone to Germany in a more comfortable position, but it's still a good result."

Winger Franco Cervi knows the tie is definitely not over: "We played a great game but even if they hadn't scored the 2nd goal the tie wouldn't have been over. We have to play another great game in Germany to get through."

Eintracht Frankfurt manager Adi Hütter appeared pleased with the result despite the setbacks: "The early red card obviously made it difficult for us. There were periods when our shape wasn’t good, particularly at the start of the second half. But overall, it was a great performance from my team. We played really well here with 10 men for 70 minutes, so we still have every chance in the second leg. I’m expecting fireworks now in Frankfurt. We’ll need a perfect day at home but I’m convinced we can beat Benfica."

Wing-back Danny Da Costa was pleased despite the club losing their first match in 2019: "To stand your ground against a team of this quality with 10 men is extremely difficult, but we did it well. We’re still alive and have the chance to get to the next round. We have to believe. If we do that, and with the fans behind us, we can produce a great performance."

Gonçalo Paciência understood the significance of his goal and believes Frankfurt are the stronger team: "My goal was important. I was in the right place. Now it’s vital we win by two goals in the return leg. Our two goals tonight were important, and of course we still have a chance of winning. We need our fans, they’re our 12th man. We have to believe in ourselves. We’re stronger than Benfica, as we’ve shown."

by Matthew Marshall

 

Comments (8)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

give him a chance up front against Lithuania and Luxembourg!!!

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While I gladly would've taken a 4-2 scoreline at the start of the match, it's hard not to be frustrated at the fact that we managed to concede two away goals to a team that played a man down for approximately 70 minutes. We should have killed the...

While I gladly would've taken a 4-2 scoreline at the start of the match, it's hard not to be frustrated at the fact that we managed to concede two away goals to a team that played a man down for approximately 70 minutes. We should have killed the game off with that Seferovic 1v1, but we left the door open and they took their chance.

You have to give credit to Frankfurt, though. Most sides would have shut up shop and played a game of damage reduction, but they stuck to their original game plan. They clearly lack the technical quality of a top European side, but they more than make up for it with sheer athleticism. We will have to be at the top of our game in Germany to see this tie through. We're still in the driving seat, but if Frankfurt score early, things could get real ugly real fast.

Joao Felix was absolutely superb. Grimaldo, Gedson, and Samaris also put in a solid shift. Jardel and Fejsa have barely played in recent months and it showed. Both looked out of sorts throughout and their mental lapses cost us two goals.

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Good game by Joao Felix but the hype is getting too much. Let the kid play and keep his head down.

If he is lucky, he might reach the level of a Nani or Simao.

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-Z-, the only difference between Sporting and a mid-table club is nostalgia.

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Is this Felix coming out party? It is amazing really but I think a little caution is necessary as the hype machine is working overtime. I really would hate to see Felix fall into the Quaresma-Renato problem where they leave way too early and...

Is this Felix coming out party? It is amazing really but I think a little caution is necessary as the hype machine is working overtime. I really would hate to see Felix fall into the Quaresma-Renato problem where they leave way too early and never adjust.

Ronaldo is an enigma and he should not be used as a bar to judge players who left Portugal early and adapted.

Joao Felix is fearless for his age. He needs calm and structure not hype and chaos.

-Z- come on dude, Felix is a completely different player from Nani and Simao. Not sure Portugal have ever had a player like him. Little bit Suarez (without the biting) and little bit Nuno Gomes.

All the best to the kid but Z is right about the hype, its bad for the kid and bad for Portugal.

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Credit to Frankfurt, they had a man less knew they were going to lose and Benfica were going to score more goals and decided to risk it by attacking and getting goals for themselves, made for a extremely entertaining game.

Personally I think...

Credit to Frankfurt, they had a man less knew they were going to lose and Benfica were going to score more goals and decided to risk it by attacking and getting goals for themselves, made for a extremely entertaining game.

Personally I think Frankfurt would be more happy with the result than Benfica, alright they lost but they managed to get 2 away goals and only need to score 2 goals in their own ground to be in the aggregate lead which is a realistic objective.

Hope Benfica can get through as they will play Chelsea so I can try my best to take my Dad to watch them in London, never been to the Chelsea stadium would be nice as I missed the chance to see Arsenal v Sporting which wasn't a total loss as that game was pretty lame.

I reckon Benfica will lose 2-1 but still get through!

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All things being considered, an excellent result for Benfica to take into the second leg in Germany. Yes it was disappointing to concede two away goals, and particularly the second goal which was so preventable....but people seem to be forgetting...

All things being considered, an excellent result for Benfica to take into the second leg in Germany. Yes it was disappointing to concede two away goals, and particularly the second goal which was so preventable....but people seem to be forgetting that Benfica actually won by two goals (someone actually suggested here that Frankfurt would be happier than Benfica with the final result....what a rediculous comment, how could the team that lost by two goals be happier than the team that won by two goals???). Anyway to have a two goal advantage over a team that hadn't lost yet in 2019, and had won all but one (a draw) of their Europa league matches this season, is excellent and any SLB fan would've taken that before the match kicked off.

Bruno Lage really does mean business doesn't he??!! I make that the 7th time already that we have scored 4 goals or more in a match since he took over just 3 months ago. He rested literally half the team last night (5 titulares) and they still managed to score 4 goals (and it could and should have been more than 4) against a strong team, one of the most in-form teams in Europe at the moment. Yes the red card affected things of course, but red cards are part and parcel of the game and every team needs to be ready to play with 10 men, and in fact Frankfurt did well considering they were a man down for so long. They are a good team for sure.

There is still a lot of work to be done in the second leg and we have to keep our feet on the ground and keep totally focused. Frankfurt will definitely feel they can turn it all around and win by two goals themselves. We have to go there with the utmost seriousness and concentration to get through the tie. But i really fancy us scoring there, having seen Frankfurt's (at times shakey) defence in the first leg. It's still all open and there's everything to play for. I do think Lage needs to play a stronger team in the second leg. Ferro should come back in for Jardel (very poor in Frankfurt's second goal) and Florentino in for Fejsa (very poor for the first goal). We are going to have to defend very well in Germany and Ferro and Florentino offer more defensive solidity than Jardel and Fejsa on current form. I also think Seferovic should start next week, because an away goal is crucial.

Lastly, a word on Joao Felix. Phenomenal performance last night, a hat trick plus an assist for a 19 year old in a European quarter final is top notch! He has all the potential to be the very best Portuguese player that has come along since CR7. I'm still hopeful of the club keeping him for one more season, as long as Vieira sticks to his words that he will not leave for anything less than his release clause. As talented as he clearly is, I don't see any club paying 120 million for a 19 year old with less than a full season of senior football experience. Hopefully he stays another season as that would be the best for everyone concerned, for the club of course but also for him to continue his development and not make the same mistake as Renato Sanches did, for example, by leaving way too early.

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I agree with you guys regarding Felix. The kid is pure class, and he definitely has the potential the potential to be the best player Portugal has produced since Ronaldo. I also think that it would be best for him to stay at Benfica for at least...

I agree with you guys regarding Felix. The kid is pure class, and he definitely has the potential the potential to be the best player Portugal has produced since Ronaldo. I also think that it would be best for him to stay at Benfica for at least one more season. Yes, he is significantly more mature both technically and tactically than Renato was at 19, but there is no guarantee that he will get consistent playing time if he moves to a top league, especially if he ends up at a Real Madrid, Barcelona, Man City, etc.

The same can be said for the likes of Ruben Dias, Ferro, Gedson, and Florentino. Ruben Dias has been linked to Atletico, Juventus, and Man United in recent weeks, and while he can be absolutely superb on his day, he is still far too erratic to make the step up to an elite side.

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