Late penalty earns Rio Ave a 1-1 draw against Benfica

Rio Ave justified their reputation as stalemate specialists, a late penalty securing a 1-1 draw against Benfica in the final game of the season at Estádio dos Arcos.

Casper Tengstedt saw an early chance saved by debutant Cezary Miszta, but the Eagles stayed on the front foot and took the lead in the 32nd minute.

It was a simple team move executed to perfection after Fredrik Aursnes released Casper Tengstedt, the striker teeing up Orkun Kökçü who made no mistake.

Roger Schmidt’s side went close to closing it out before Florentino conceded a penalty in the dying minutes. Costinha stepped up and slammed it home, the Vila do Conde club in party mode after a long, hard season.

Benfica in control

Marios Vrousai fired an early shot over the bar before Benfica created a great chance to take the lead. Orkun Kökçü’s pass sent Casper Tengstedt clear, his shot saved by Cezary Miszta who was making his debut in goal.

Tengstedt forced another save from the 22-year-old but the game would soon take a back seat for Ukra.

The #17, making his first start of the season to make it 205 appearances for the club, made way for Joca a few seconds after the 17th minute, the game coming on the 17th of May in his 17th season as a professional.

Rio Ave used the occasion to turn the tide, Patrick William’s low drive sent straight at Samuel Soares before Emmanuel Boateng headed Joca’s cross wide of the post.

The Benfica fans appeared to be preparing for a funeral before eventually making some noise in the 31st minute. A minute later their side were in front.

This time it was Fredrik Aursnes sending Tengstedt clear, the striker laying the ball into the path of Orkun Kökçü who nonchalantly stroked the ball past Miszta.

The Eagles would have another chance before the break after capitalising on a loose pass from Amine Oudrhiri. João Mário pounced, stepped inside and tested Miszta who made a smart save at his near post.

Luís Freire made two changes at the break with Mateo Tanlongo and João Graça making way for Adrien Silva and Fábio Ronaldo.

Benfica remained in control however, Kökçü unable to keep his shit down, Benjamín Rollheiser’s shot blocked and Tengstedt seeing another effort saved.

Roger Schmidt brought on Tiago Gouveia for Benjamín Rollheiser in the 63rd minute, Freire immediately responding by bringing on Úmaro Embaló for Marios Vrousai.

The Eagles were eager to kill the game off, Miszta tipping the ball over the bar after Tengstedt’s cross had been diverted in his direction by Patrick William. João Neves was then denied by Miszta, Nicolás Otamendi’s follow up flying way over the bar.

Schmidt handed Gustavo Varela his first team debut, the 19-year-old replacing Tengstedt. Rio Ave finally put the ball in the back of the net in the 77th minute, Boateng racing clear and scoring from an offside position.

Schmidt brought on Juan Bernat and Gianluca Prestianni for Álvaro Carreras and Kökçü, but any thoughts the manager had of closing it out were crushed in the dying minutes.

Aderllan Santos headed a corner off the post, VAR spotting Florentino’s raised hand that diverted the ball onto the woodwork, a penalty eventually awarded. Costinha stepped up and slammed the ball down the middle but there was more drama to come in added time.

Prestianni’s shot was tipped wide by Miszta, Rio Ave then executing a counter attack that resulted in Samuel Soares denying Boateng.

Rio Ave draw again

The result should come as no surprise despite the nature and timing of Rio Ave’s equaliser. They have lost only once in their last 17 games, an incredible run that includes 13 draws.

Luís Freire’s side end the season with six wins, 19 draws and nine defeats, enough to stay in the Primeira Liga for another season.

Ukra signed off in style, the 36-year-old getting a guard of honour and an opportunity to take the microphone after the dust had settled.

The Porto junior joined Rio Ave on loan in 2012, making the deal permanent in 2013 before reaching his peak in 2024/15 when he registered six goals and 13 assists. He returned to Vila do Conde in 2021 after stints in Saudi Arabia and Bulgaria, the winger struggling to find a way back into the first team.

Jhonatan celebrated his 100th appearance for Rio Ave before kick-off, but the Brazilian had to settle for a spot on the bench with Freire handing a debut to 22-year-old Polish goalkeeper Cezary Miszta.

The Schmidt story

Roger Schmidt was without Rafa Silva and Ángel Di María who are preparing to leave the club. He gave Benjamín Rollheiser his first start and handed Gustavo Varela and Gianluca Prestianni their first team debuts off the bench.

The travelling Benfica fans were quiet for much of the match, interrupting their silence to celebrate the goal and abuse the 2022/23 title winning coach towards the conclusion.

Rui Costa, just days after releasing a statement to deny accusations of embezzlement of funds from Benfica’s signing of players, now appears to have four options with his under fire manager:

1) Sack Schmidt and take the heat for the payout after extending the German’s contact to June 2026 in March 2023.

2) Hope to convince Schmidt to leave by mutual agreement and take a year’s salary.

3) Hope that Schmidt has simply had enough and will walk away with a year’s salary.

4) Splash the cash in the transfer window and manipulate the media in an attempt to appease the large portion of Benfica fans that want Schmidt out.

By Matthew Marshall at Estádio dos Arcos

Rio Ave 1-1 Benfica Highlights