Europa League: Benfica twice come from behind in 2-2 draw at home to Rangers

Benfica and Rangers played out an entertaining draw in the first leg of their Europa League last-16 tie on a rainswept night in Lisbon tonight.

Rangers twice took the lead in the first half through Tom Lawrence and Dujon Sterling.

Benfica created plenty of chances but had to rely on a Di María penalty and an own goal by Connor Goldson to draw level and set up a finely balanced second in Glasgow next Thursday. 

After the humiliation in Porto at the weekend, Benfica coach Roger Schmidt inevitably rang the changes. Alexander Bah, David Neres, Arthur Cabral and Florentino Luís came into the starting line-up, Morato, Kökçu, Joao Mário and Casper Tengstedt making way.

Scottish league leaders Rangers also came into the game on the back of a poor result, losing to Motherwell on Saturday. However, Phillipe Clement’s side had won ten straight games before that and the visitors got a dream start in the Portuguese capital.

Early goal stuns hosts

Benfica had started brightly, with David Neres forcing Jack Butland into a sharp save in the 4th minute, but from Rangers first attack they took the lead with a well-worked goal. Fábio Silva released Mohammed Diomandé on right, who cut inside and delivered a precise cross that was headed into the corner of the net by Tom Lawrence, inexplicably left completely unmarked.

With the fillip of the goal, Rangers took advantage of some disorientation in the Benfica back line in the subsequent minutes, Lawrence testing Trubin again from range and Yilmaz firing an effort over the bar.

Back came Benfica, who were desperately close to an equaliser in the 13th minute. Aursnes played in Neres whose shot was saved by Butland but fell to Cabral, the Brazilian unable to get a firm contact on the rebound effort the ball plopping up into the grateful goalkeeper’s hands virtually on the goal-line.

Di María at the centre of the action

Although enjoying the lion’s share of possession, Benfica were unable to create chances against a well-organised Rangers side. But on the stroke of half time Di María whipped in one of his viciously curling corners, which John Souttar was ruled to have handled after a VAR check. The Argentine had scored two goals from penalties in Benfica’s previous home game in the Europa League and he again made no mistake from the spot.

Amazingly, Rangers hit straight back to retake the lead. The hosts failed to deal with an attack, Rangers recycled the ball and Fábio Silva’s cross was deflected into the path of Sterling who could not miss from point-blank range. Half-time, Rangers 2-1 up and their large travelling contingent of fans were singing in the rain.

Benfica almost found a quick equaliser early in the second half, Rafa bursting into the box and crossing for Neres, but the Brazilian hesitated and his eventual shot was charged down by a defender.

To their credit, Rangers did not just defend, some good passing movements and a super motivated Fábio Silva keeping the Benfica back line honest. The former Porto striker had a chance to score on the hour mark, his angled shot parried around the post by Trubin.

Comical own goal

Midway through the second half Benfica equalised from a calamitous own goal by Goldson. Di María swung in a free kick but got his angles wrong and the ball was heading harmlessly out of play before the defender decided to intervene, his attempted headed clearance flying directly into the net.

The crowd came to life in the expectation of a cavalry charge in the final twenty minutes that never arrived. Benfica were well on top against a tiring Rangers at this stage, but lacked the clarity of thought to find a way through.

The result will keep the pressure on under-fire boss Roger Schmidt and sets up a mouthwatering second leg in Scotland next week.

By Tom Kundert at the Estádio da Luz


[0-1] Tom Lawrence, 7’

[1-1] Ángel Di María, 45 + 2’  

[1-2] Dujon Sterling, 45 + 5’

[2-2] Connor Goldson (own goal), 67’