PSV Eindhoven 0-0 Benfica (aggregate: 1-2)
Benfica booked their place in the group stage of the 2021/22 Champions League tonight thanks to a sterling backs-to-the-wall display in the Netherlands.
Defending a 2-1 lead from the first leg in Lisbon last week, Benfica looked comfortable until suffering a setback on the half-hour mark as centre-back Lucas Veríssimo was sent off for a second yellow card.
The 10 men, aided by timely substitutions from Jorge Jesus, went on to produce a fine defensive effort to keep PSV at bay, with goalkeeper Odysseas Vlachodimos again shining with a string of impressive saves.
Millions of euros were at stake with entry to the Champions League, with progress akin to a big win at the best usa online casino. Benfica set up with the now familiar three centre-back system, with Morato, Otamendi and Veríssimo at the heart of defence, but there was a surprise in the starting line-up as Taarabt got the nod in central midfield in place of Pizzi.
And it was the Moroccan who created the first big chance of the game, his marauding run through the centre of the pitch causing panic in the Dutch defence, the ball eventually breaking to Rafa, whose shot from close range was only kept out by a desperate lunge from the last PSV defender.
The hosts hit back immediately, with left-back Max coming close with a shot into the side-netting.
Benfica then suffered a huge setback as Veríssimo, already on a yellow card, jumped for a high ball in midfield and caught Gakpo with a flailing elbow. A second yellow card and an early bath for the Brazilian.
PSV immediately seized the initiative, the impressive Madueke curling a long-range shot just wide then going even closer as he skipped through the Benfica defence and forced Vlachodimos into the first of several sharp saves, the Greek goalkeeper preventing the goal with his feet.
Benfica survived until half time and dealt well with PSV during the first 15 minutes of the second half, with JJ meanwhile restoring the 5-man defence by bringing on Jan Vertonghen for Taarabt.
On 63 minutes PSV seemed certain to score. A Morato mistake opened up the Benfica defence, with Gapko’s cross leaving Zahavi with an open goal, but the striker incredibly lifted the ball onto the bar with the goal at his mercy.
The near miss was the signal for PSV to pour forward, with Vlachodimos becoming the Benfica hero with a succession of superb stops, none better than a double-save in the 86th minute to twice deny substitute Vertessen.
Otamendi and Grimaldo were also magnificent in their defensive duties, with Weigl and João Mário providing precious assistance to help repel the practically non-stop PSV attacks.
“We achieved our aim. We want to play against the best, and the best are in this competition,” said Benfica coach Jorge Jesus post-match. “It was tough, but over the two legs we were the better team.”
Benfica join Sporting and FC Porto in this season’s Champions League. Portuguese fans will be as delighted as when in a crazyvegas casino, as Portugal once again has three representatives in football’s foremost club competition.
By Tom Kundert
PSV: Drommel, Mwene (Thomas, 89), Ramalho, Boscagli (Obispo, 70), Max (Teze, 89), Sangaré, Van Ginkel (Bruma, 70), Madueke (Vertessen, 70), Gotze, Gakpo, Zahavi
Benfica: Vlachodimos, Gilberto (André Almeida, 61), Lucas Veríssimo, Otamendi, Morato, Grimaldo, João Mário (Everton, 74), Weigl, Taarabt (Vertonghen, 54), Rafa (Meité, 74), Yaremchuk (Gonçalo Ramos, 61)