Champions League football returned to a packed Estádio da Luz on Wednesday evening, in the shape of the quarter-final 2nd Leg. Trailing 0-1 from the first leg in Germany, Benfica’s disciplined display had managed to give them a fighting chance against the German champions, Bayern Munich.

With a fantastic atmosphere at the Luz, many Benfiquistas could be forgiven for being quietly confident about their side’s chances in this tie. However, as with all best laid plans, there was a spanner or two in the works in the form of selection headaches.

Rui Vitória had hoped to name an unchanged squad, save for the suspension of Jonas who picked up a yellow in Munich. However, it wasn’t to be as both Kostas Mitroglou and Nico Gaitán were ruled out  through injury prior to kick-off. It meant a chance for Carcela, Pizzi and Raúl Jiménez had chances to etch themselves into Benfica folklore. The Moroccan took over left-wing duties while Salvio would provide the width on the right as Pizzi moved into the middle. Jiménez was to lead the line as the lone striker. Meanwhile, the back four remained the same and Ederson continued in goal.

First Half

Bayern got Act 2, Scene 1 of the performance underway and then looked to want the ball to themselves for large parts of the opening exchanges. The Germans knocked the ball around comfortably but it was Benfica who had the game’s first chance.

On 3 minutes, Kimmich was adjudged to have fouled Raúl Jiménez in what appeared to be a 50-50 challenge. Dutch referee, Bjorn Kuipers, awarded the free kick and Eliseu stepped up before firing low from around 25-30 yards out. The shot cannoned off the Bayern wall and, ultimately, went harmlessly wide of Manuel Neuer’s post for a corner.

With the visitors continuing to control possession for the most part, they finally created a half chance on 19 minutes when Philipp Lahm managed to get the better of Eliseu and deliver a cross into the box. Thomas Müller connected with it but, again, was unable to trouble Ederson in the Benfica goal. It was, however, a warning shot across the Benfica bows.

Minutes later, Bayern were again on the attack and Lahm was increasingly finding space on the right. He knocked a simple ball back to Thiago whose first time chip into the box found Vidal. The Chilean had managed to get in between André Almeida and Victor Lindelöf but his header was weak and was easily gathered by Ederson.

Back On Level Terms

On 27 minutes, Benfica finally found space to attack the Germans and Eliseu’s buccaneering run forward resulted in a superb searching ball into the box. There to meet it with a diving header was Jiménez. Having squeezed between Javi Martínez and David Alaba, the Mexican’s header flew past the on-rushing Manuel Neuer and brought parity to the tie. 1-0 on the night, 1-1 on aggregate. The reactions from the Benfiquistas were deafening and the tie looked to be turning in the Portuguese side’s favour.

It could have been even better for Benfica when, three minutes later, Jiménez was found by Salvio’s low cross from the right. With time and space in the box, the striker just couldn’t quite get the ball under control with his first touch. By the time he did get a tame shot off, he was being closed down by the Bayern defence and it meant that Neuer wasn’t worked as hard as Benfica fans would have liked. But it was proof, if needed, that Benfica were confident and going for the jugular.

However, the momentum the tie changed again on 38 minutes. Despite half chances for Arturo Vidal and Lahm, Bayern finally did reassert their control. Vidal scored the only goal of the first leg and he was found by Lahm again whose cross from the right was parried away impressively by Ederson. The ball fell outside the box to Vidal and he hit it on the half volley to make it 1-1 on the night. Benfica may have been disappointed with the lack of pressing of the second ball, but it meant that Bayern now had the crucial away goal and it seemed to take the wind out of Benfica’s sails.

Second Half

With the Bayern goal just before the break, it was clear that the Germans now fancied themselves to go on and win this tie comfortably. They didn’t have to wait long after the break to put it beyond doubt when, on 52 minutes, Thomas Müller gave Bayern a second away goal to make it 1-2 on the night (1-3 on aggregate). A corner from the left by Xabi Alonso was headed back across goal at the far post by Javi Martínez. The Spaniard’s header fell neatly for Müller who tapped home past Ederson to send the travelling fans into raptures. It now meant Benfica would need three more goals to advance to the semi finals.

Bayern were relentless in their attacking of Benfica’s back four. Two minutes after Müller’s goal, Douglas Costa was played through on the counter but his poor touch gave Ederson enough time to dive at his compatriot’s feet and snuff out the danger.

Costa was then involved again on the hour when he was sent through on goal a second time. He fired a low shot across a diving Ederson but hit the far post and rebounded to safety to keep Benfica’s slim chances alive.

Benfica did their best to rally the troops and both André Almeida and Gonçalo Guedes, on as a 57th minute substitute for Pizzi, had efforts from range. Almeida’s was well-tipped over the bar by Manuel Neuer but Guedes’ ultimately failed to trouble the German national team stopper.

In the 68th minute Bayern again had the ball in the Benfica net. This time it didn’t count though, as David Alaba was adjudged to be offside when his low cross found Müller at the far post to tap home. And about five minutes later, Müller was again involved as he held the ball up and laid it off for the advancing Vidal. The Chilean then fired what appeared to be a tame shot that should’ve been routine for Ederson to gather. However, in an uncharacteristic error by the Brazilian, he let it slip through his hands and just about managed to get enough on it to send the ball wide of the post.

Enter Talisca…

With just 16 minutes left of normal time on the clock, some hope for Benfica. Guedes caused major problems for Javi Martínez and had the beating of the Spanish centre-back. Advancing on goal, the Portugal international was then brought down on the edge of the box. With the crowd baying for a red card, Bjorn Kuipers produced only a yellow which brought an animated response from Rui Vitória on the touchline. However, Benfica will feel a modicum of justice as Talisca stepped up to curl a delicious free-kick over the wall and into Neuer’s top-near corner. 2-2 on the night and 2-3 on aggregate.

With five minutes left on the clock, Talisca nearly got in on the act again. This time, the Brazilian was the one brought down in a similar position to Guedes. The substitute then stepped up to hit another superb free kick but, this time, it fizzed agonisingly wide of the far post.

Lewandowski had been brought on at 84 minutes and had a superb chance to put Benfica to the sword. Through on goal and with space, the Polish striker was unable to get any considerable power behind the shot and Ederson was able to deal with it comfortably.

At the death, Luka Jovic (on for Eliseu in the 88th minute), found himself the recipient of a superb ball over the top by Talisca. In the box and with the time to shoot, the young Serb was unable to fire past Neuer, signalling Kuipers to blow the final whistle and end Benfica’s Champions League campaign for another season.

Rapturous send-off

This was always going to be a tough tie for Benfica, made even more difficult by missing key players. However, the side was applauded off the pitch by the Luz faithful at the final whistle, and rightly so. These players gave everything of themselves over the two legs and asked some real questions of one of the finest club sides in the world.

Over both legs, special mention must go to Ederson. Second choice at the Luz, he may well provide some real competition for Júlio César in the future. The relatively inexperienced, Victor Lindelöf, also performed admirably alongside the more experienced Jardel. A lot of credit must go to oft-maligned Rui Vitória for bringing the youth along.

When you consider the likes of Ederson, Lindelöf, Guedes, Talisca and Renato Sanches are all aged 22 and under, and then supplement them with the likes of Nélson Semedo, the future seems very bright indeed for Benfica. The club has a very realistic chance of winning the Liga NOS title this season and will doubtless be an even stronger force to be reckoned with in the Champions League in 2016-17. One only hopes they can keep a hold of these talented youngsters, for the vultures will surely begin to circle the Luz this summer.

Benfica: Ederson - André Almeida, Lindelöf, Jardel (C), Eliseu (Jovic 86') - Fejsa, Renato Sanches, Salvio (Talisca 67'), Pizzi (Gonçalo Guedes 58'), Carcela - Raúl Jiménez.

Bayern: Neuer - Lahm (C), Kimmich, Martínez, Alaba - Alonso (Bernat 88'), Vidal, Thiago, Costa, Ribéry (Götze 89') - Müller (Lewandowski 82').

by Paul Gellard

Comments (5)

  1. Val

Nothing much to say except Benfica did a fantastic job and should be applauded. Benfiquistas should be proud of their team and what they did in the champions this year.

Jimenez was impressive. It is tough to justify him playing over Jonas and...

Nothing much to say except Benfica did a fantastic job and should be applauded. Benfiquistas should be proud of their team and what they did in the champions this year.

Jimenez was impressive. It is tough to justify him playing over Jonas and Mitroglou but Jimenez offers something the others cant, muscle. He powers through defenders! Fun to watch.

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  1. Chaves

Talisca looks impressive - bright future ahead for the young squad.

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Wow! Zis vas ze greatest victory in ze history of ze Bayern Munich, ya. In tomorrow's edition of Bild magazine, zere vill be mention of how zis vas ze greatest upset in European history, ya! Of course, even bigger zen ze time ve upset FC Porto,...

Wow! Zis vas ze greatest victory in ze history of ze Bayern Munich, ya. In tomorrow's edition of Bild magazine, zere vill be mention of how zis vas ze greatest upset in European history, ya! Of course, even bigger zen ze time ve upset FC Porto, vich vas ze previous greatest upset in history, ya!

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  1. SupremoGino

A very successful Champions League campaign. Benfica went as far as they could this year and maybe further if they had better luck with the draw. They put up a good fight against Bayern over the two legs especially given the circumstances...

A very successful Champions League campaign. Benfica went as far as they could this year and maybe further if they had better luck with the draw. They put up a good fight against Bayern over the two legs especially given the circumstances (injuries and suspensions to our 3 key players) Bayern fans can say they're dealing with some injuries of their own.. that is true but last I checked Benfica doesn't have a Lewandowski or Gotze that they can bring off the bench.

Bayern hit around a 90% passing success rate in the tie.. that's just crazy good and the reason why Benfica struggled to win the ball back. When we did win the ball back.. Benfica just could not manage to navigate past Bayern's high pressing. It's in important to note that Jimenez goal did come from one of the few times we got through that initial pressure.. the ball being switched out to Eliseu on the left hand side and that is how you beat a team like Bayern. Real Madrid did it the same way when they embarassed them 4-0 on their way to La Decima.

Benfica got the minimum 2 goals they needed to advance.. but the defending was not sufficient for this level. Those two goals were gifted to Bayern and so it was time to bow out. Of the remaining teams, Man City the weakest IMO. Rooting for Real Madrid and CR7 to keep breaking records. Atletico Madrid and Bayern both of which Benfica proved could go toe to toe with. Overall, nothing but proud of our team. Shout out to Rui Vitoria and our fantastic supporters as always.

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  1. Andre/UK

Fantastic effort from the team in the Champions league this season, I'm really proud of them and of Rui Vitoria who is doing a great job in his first season. Bayern were deserved winners over the two legs, no arguments, they are a top 3 team in...

Fantastic effort from the team in the Champions league this season, I'm really proud of them and of Rui Vitoria who is doing a great job in his first season. Bayern were deserved winners over the two legs, no arguments, they are a top 3 team in Europe and will dominate virtually every team in Europe. So to have pushed them so much in the tie was an excellent effort and with a little more luck (i.e the penalty awarded in the first leg, Javi Martinez rightfully sent off last night) we could really have knocked them out.

How many players were unavailable last night, people keep mentioning 3, it was actually 5 (half the first team and arguably the most important players on the team): Jonas, Mitroglou, Gaitan, Luisao (was in the squad but not match fit) and Julio Cesar. And even with half the first team missing, we still had the chances to have won the tie last night. I really think if everyone had been available for both legs of the tie we would've gone through and from the semis on, everything is possible. So in short, a super effort from the Aguias in Europe this season and from Rui Vitoria. Is even one Benfiquista anywhere in the world still missing JJ? We couldn't even pass the group stages with him, lol!

Well I always thought the Champions league was a bonus for us this year, with a new coach in charge and a new direction for the club. The number one priority of course was winning the Liga again. And now we can focus fully on that objective. With only Liga matches (plus one Taca de Liga semi final) remaining now, I really fancy our chances of defending our title. But we have to continue focused and humble and take it match by match.

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