Ángel Di María’s exquisite free-kick the difference as Benfica take three points from tricky Vizela fixture

Vizela 1-2 Benfica

“Football is sometimes like that,” said Benfica manager Roger Schmidt when asked about Vizela’s fightback on Saturday night.

The Lisbon side looked in control through most of the match after early goals from Petar Musa and Ángel Di María, but a 70th minute penalty added some late tension and drama.

Benfica prevailed 2-1 at the Estádio do FC Vizela but questions remain over the tactics, chemistry and the starting eleven. 

Dominant Benfica 

The match started with Benfica in complete control. Croatian striker Petar Musa broke the deadlock in the 9th minute to give them an early advantage. Minutes later, they came close to doubling their lead due to a chaotic sequence that saw Vizela defender Anderson nearly put the ball in his own net. Orkun Kökçü and Rafa both had chances and the Eagles were excellent in the final third of the pitch.

Di María provided the visiting fans with a moment of brilliance in the 39th minute. The winger left keeper Fabijan Buntić frozen with a perfectly curled free kick to the top right corner of the goal. 

The match opened up in the second half and Vizela started to threaten the Benfica goal. Former PSG striker Samuel Essende looked the most likely to score. 

Vizela Manager Pablo Villar made adjustments and the team was rewarded for their efforts with a penalty in the 70th minute. Midfielder Samu stepped up and casually placed the ball into the corner to give the home supporters some hope. 

Benfica had their chances and managed a total of 18 shots on the night. Vizela continued to push but were unable to break down a stubborn Benfica defence. 

Benfica move up to second in the table with 12 points from five matches. Vizela dropped to 13th with just four points from their opening four matches. 

Goal-scoring spree continues for Benfica

Schmidt’s men currently have the best goal difference in Portugal (7) and have already scored 13 goals, an average of 2.6 goals per match. The offence seems to be clicking and the team has several attacking options to turn to. 

So far, six different players have scored for the club: Ángel Di María, Rafa, Petar Musa, Fredrik Aursnes, Orkun Kökçü, Casper Tengstedt. 

Petar Musa continued his impressive form with his second goal in four league matches and rewarded the manager for sticking with him.

Brazilian striker Arthur Cabral, who recently joined the club on a €20 million fee, is yet to get off the mark but offers depth and quality to the front line. 

Ángel Di María’s form

There is no doubting the Argentinian’s quality on the pitch but Schmidt will need to figure out how best to utilise the 35-year-old in his system. Last night, Di María could be found on the left, right and drifting more towards the middle of the pitch. He was exceptional on the night and truly looks a cut above his colleagues. It will be interesting to see how the manager positions Di María in the coming weeks. 

Di María currently leads the Primera Liga with four goals (tied with Sporting’s Paulinho) and has one assist. 

Anatoliy Trubin Benfica debut

Roger Schmidt provided Ukrainian goalkeeper Anatoliy Trubin with the start on Saturday. The highly-rated keeper was brought over from Shakhtar Donetsk and is expected to play a big role for the club this season. 

Trubin had little to do in the first half and was called upon to make just one save on the night before conceding his only goal from a spot-kick.

Benfica’s best 11

Roger Schmidt selected a strong side to face Vizela despite the upcoming European Champions League fixture versus RB Salzburg on Wednesday. The manager did not make his first substitution until the 71st minute and stuck with his core group. Supporters may have been concerned when they saw Nicolás Otamendi and Alexander Bah receiving treatment during the match. Di María was subbed out in the 87th minute holding his hip.

David Neres and Florentino are two of the most exciting young talents in Europe but Schmidt has used them sparingly. The club paid a hefty fee for striker Arthur Cabral, who has played only a handful of minutes so far. 

Benfica faces a difficult schedule in the coming weeks and we can expect to see more rotation in the lineup.

By Sahir Bhojwani