Benfica 1-0 Borussia Dortmund

A memorable match in Lisbon saw Benfica escape with victory despite being outplayed for 90 minutes by an impressive Borussia Dortmund side.

Kostas Mitroglou's goal early in the second half, a succession of glaring misses by the normally lethal Aubameyang and a wondrous goalkeeping display by Benfica No.1 Ederson mean the Portuguese champions will travel to Germany in three weeks with a precious lead in the tie.

Benfica's star striker Jonas failed a late fitness test on a neck injury and the in-form Zivkovic was suspended, but despite being deprived of two of his most potent attacking weapons coach Rui Vitória selected an attacking line-up. Wingers Salvio, Carrillo and Rafa Silva were all in the starting line-up, Rafa expected to play a support role behind striker Kostas Mitroglou.

Dortmund were without the injured Mario Gotze, but with the mobile and rapid front three of Aubameyang, Reus and Dembélé, ably supplied by Portugal's European Champion Raphael Guerreiro and Julian Weigl, the Germans were not exactly short of firepower.

A frantic opening five minutes, with Dembélé for the visitors and Salvio for Benfica having half-chances, suggested we could be in for a classic. But the balance of play soon tipped the Germans' way, with Benfica often struggling to get out of their own half as they had no answer to the energetic pressing, constant movement and slick passing of Thomas Tuchel's team.

In the 10th minute Dembélé robbed the ball off Pizzi and immediately released Aubameyang, but with just Ederson to beat the Gabonese striker fired over the bar. Dembélé then came close as a wave of Borussia pressure saw the ball break to him ten yards out, but a combination of Lindelöf and Ederson kept his shot out.

Luisão rock

Luisão, playing his 500th game for Benfica, was called on time and again to make vital interceptions, both on the ground and in the air as Benfica's inability to get any meaningful possession in midfield allowed the visitors to create constant danger.

Despite the Benfica captain's valiant efforts, it seemed only a matter of time before Dortmund would score. Raphael Guerreiro did well to surprise Fejsa and knock a low cross across goal that the sliding Aubameyang just failed to knock into the net.

Dortmund's players furiously remonstrated with the referee shortly before half time as Ederson committed the exact same error that got him sent off against Arouca last Friday, racing out of goal, missing his clearance and instead connecting with the opposition player, in this case Dembélé, who needed extensive treatment. The referee waved away the German protests.

At half time Vitória bolstered Benfica's midfield by bringing on recent signing Filipe Augusto for Carrillo, and the home team started well after the break, showing more aggression and at last asking questions of the Dortmund defence. And the hosts were immediately rewarded as Luisão met a corner with a towering header which Mitroglou controlled practically on the goal-line before poking the ball into the net to spark wild celebrations in the stadium.

The game then reverted to the pattern of the first half, with Dortmund largely bossing the game. On 53 minutes Aubameyang again missed a glaring chance as he skied the ball over the bar with just Ederson to beat, then the Brazilian goalkeeper did fantastically well to dive full length and keep out Piszczek's fierce 25-yard effort.

 

 

That was just the start of the "Ederson show". In the 58th minute the referee pointed to the penalty spot as Fejsa handled in the box but Aubameyang's miserable night continued as he hit the spot kick straight down the middle, with the static Ederson able to parry the ball out without moving his feet, and the defence hacking the rebound away.

Miraculous save

Dortmund continued to pour forward and create chances, but the inspired 23-year-old goalkeeper - in front of the watching Taffarel, now part of the Brazil national team coaching staff - stopped everything thrown at him, including an astonishing reaction save in the closing minutes from a powerful Pulisic volley that took a wicked deflection of Jiménez.

The home fans did their bit to help push Benfica over the line, with thunderous cheers greeting the referee's full-time whistle. Although it was by no means a vintage Benfica display, a fantastic night's entertainment ended with the Portuguese team giving themselves a real shot at making the Champions League quarter-finals for the second season running. A finely balanced tie makes for a fascinating and difficult to predict second leg on 8 March. For betting tips go to SBAT's betting tips.

Rui Vitória knows his team must improve drastically to survive the second leg, but he would undoubtedly have taken a one-nil win if offered before the match. "It was fundamental not to concede goals. We beat a very good team. It will be tough (in Dortmund), but in 17 Champions League matches (last season and this) we've only failed to score once, at Bayern Munich, and this gives us belief," he said. 

by Tom Kundert, at the Estádio da Luz

 

Benfica: Ederson, Nélson Semedo, Luisão, Lindelöf, Eliseu, Fejsa, Pizzi, Salvio, Rafa (Cervi, 67'), Carrillo (Filipe Augusto, 46'), Mitroglou (Raúl Jiménez, 75')

Borussia Dortmund: Bürki, Piszczek, Sokratis, Bartra, Schmelzer, Durm, Weigl, Raphael Guerreiro (Gonzalo Castro, 82'), Dembelé, Reus (Pulisic, 82'), Aubameyang (Schürrle, 62')

Goals:

[1-0] Mitroglou, 48' 

 

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  • Guest - Andre/UK

    Huge result for SLB to take into the second leg in Germany. Yes we rode our luck big time, but luck plays a big part in this sport, anyone who doesn't know that doesn't know the sport! Secondly we haven't been in a good phase of form for the last month or so, so it wasn't a big surprise that Dortmund dominated the play. They are a top side, I've been very impressed with them over the last few years. They are a team who will go to any ground (and i really mean any ground) and cause serious problems to any defence. They are one of the most all- out attacking sides in Europe and they play with perhaps the most energetic and highest tempo of any club in Europe, so they were always going to create scoring chances against us. So taking that into consideration, to win with a clean sheet was massive for us.

    I also knew though, that defense is Dortmund's main weakness and I fully expected us to score at least one goal as we always do at the Luz. What was unclear was whether we could prrevent them from scoring. Ederson's performance was simply incredible! So assured and calm and focused for such a young player. I hope the club plays serious hard ball in the summer to hopefully keep him another season, or at least not let him go for less than what we can get for him, a lot of the wealthy clubs in Europe are after a top class keeper at the moment and will pay big. He said in a post-match interview last night that his wish is to stay with the club (as Nelson Semedo recently said too) and hopefully the club keep him another season at least, as it seems likely he will only get better and better and hence his value will only rise.

    So yeah we definitely had luck last night, but Dortmund were also very wasteful with their chances, and as we Portuguese know better than anyone (lol) if you don't put away your chances you will get punished in this sport. What was really disappointing for us was the central midfield and how much we were dominated there. That has been our biggest issue this season, we have really lacked a true number 8, a strong figure in the middle like for e.g Enzo Perez and Renato Sanches in the past, who can dictate proceedings in the middle. Pizzi has done ok in that position, but everyone knows he's a lot better on the wing. That must be the top priority for the club in the summer, bring in a quality CM (I would actually like Enzo Perez back as it happens). Anyway when Filipe Augusto came on in the second half and we had 3 in the middle, we looked stronger. Vitoria really should have started with a 4-2-3-1, given Dortmund's strong midfield, and that certainly should be the starting formation for the second leg. We need a lot more control in the middle in the second match, to prevent them from having so many scoring opportunities again. We rode our luck and Dortmund were the better team without any doubt, but if you told me before the match started that we wouldn't play very well and not attack a lot but come away with a 1-0 win, or alternatively play well, attack a lot and draw 1-1 (or even win 2-1 for that matter), there's no doubt which option I'd choose. With high level matches like this, the most important thing is the result, and a win and clean sheet to take into the second leg has to to be seen as a positive. I would still make them the favorites to advance with the tie concluding in their stadium and with their attacking potential, but we have a good chance to qualify and have to prepare well for the match and get the right strategy for it.

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  • Good points Andre,

    I woke up to watch the second half, but from what I saw I felt Ederson was amazing, Luisao was a rock, Nelson Semedo had a lot of energy and Salvio worried their defence with his confidence, skill and trickery.

    I like your suggestion of a 4-2-3-1 with two Defensive Midfielders. Who do you think will start in midfield? I think obviously Fejsa and maybe Samaras beside him as he has experience and can slip in centre back if someone gets sent off or they need to chase the game? Maybe even Andre Almeida whose also very versatile? Not sure who plays on the wings though. I like Salvio, but not sure who plays on the other wing? Maybe the young Serb Zivkovic or perhaps Franco Cerci.

    Would be good to hear your thoughts?

    from Melbourne VIC 3004, Australia
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  • Guest - SupremoGino

    I don't follow Dortmund at all but hearing they scored the most goals in the group stages.. Aubameyang should be burying those chances.. I'd be punching out my TV set if that was Jonas or Mitroglou. Dortmund is very strong but I think Benfica can cope with them. 1-0 lead on aggregate and the clean sheet is most important. Benfica has a decent shot to qualify. The main lesson to take away from this is Dortmund just out-hustled us on almost every loose ball.. 2-3 players surrounding our player.. Benfica could not keep it more than 5 seconds in the 2nd half. And this is how most of their big chances were generated. Ironically enough, When Benfica came out applying the same pressure, it led to the goal. This is the thing with German teams. They are tactically strong and they work their asses off.. Portuguese stamina are a step behind, relying more on creativity and flair. If we lose to Dortmund next game, it won't be because of their slick passing or superior IQ. They are just going to continue exerting every last ounce of energy they have against us, they look the fitter squad. Rui Vitoria needs to employ a line up that is capable of controlling the ball more, space out nicely and get those guys chasing shadows, drain their energy but the passing needs to be better. Then we will have a great opportunity to reach the quarter-finals.

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  • Desipte the fact Dortmund scored 21 goals in the groups stages, 3 were against Sporting, 4 were against Real and 14 goals were against a Legia side that was intent on playing an attack first, defence later game style. Interestingly they also conceded 9 goals in 6 games. I think Benfica have a real chance, and according to the project fivethrityeight website they are actually rated a 51% chance of making the quarters. Not conceding was huge, because this is a Dortmund side that does concede goals (at least 1 a game) and if you take out the Legia match then the most likely result would be a 2:1 Dortmund win, which of course means Benfica through on away goals.

    from Melbourne VIC 3004, Australia
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  • Rated 1 out of 5 stars

    Food for thought guys, rant incoming.

    The media circus around the champions league is comical. Everything is a disaster. Nobody just loses any longer or has a bad night. IT’S A DISASTER! CHANGES MUST BE MADE! FIRE ARSENE! FIRE ENRIQUE! TRADE MESSI! Casemiro was the worst player on Madrid then he scores a wonder goal and all is forgotten. Benzema was booed just five minutes before scoring. (rolls eyes)

    Germany isn’t the idiot hub like Spain or England when it comes to winning or losing so in that the BvB players are more protected. Aubamayang seems to be suffering from confidence. His shots are high and wide and even on a PK, where he usually hammers it top shelf, he meekly kicks at the goalie instead. This wont happen forever and some poor club is going to get hammered by BvB when they all click, let’s hope its not Benfica.

    The rise of social media has given a voice to the loud mouthed idiot who just pushes his own agenda and amazingly this garbage gets published on very popular sites. This is not just a football problem but media in general. If anyone watched the US election you will see the obvious double standard and bias towards 1 candidate. If he hates Madrid as an example, every time Madrid stumbles or loses he writes about how awful they are. It is all nonsense and there is a certain type of fan that eats this garbage up (the fanatic of the opposing club). This all goes back to what I believe and the coach of BvB also reiterated. There really are no upsets in the champions league. If you don’t show up you lose. If your game plan sucks you lose. It doesn’t matter how talented you are if you miss your chances you lose. Anyone can say who has a more talented squad, even a monkey can pick a winner that way but how many analysts nowadays discuss tactics? How many analysts admit after the fact, “boy was I wrong.” Nope, IT’S A DISASTER! WHAT AM EMBARRASSMENT!

    If Barcalona wins 4-0 at home what then? Do they all take it back. I don’t like Barca but I would love to see it happen just to listen to these troglodytes explain it all away. Would the 1 game crisis then be over?

    Arsenal were awful. Barcelona were awful. Napoli were fine but the goals Madrid scored were brilliant. BvB should have scored 3 goals. Does this mean they are all bad clubs?

    Let me ask you all a question. If I had the ability to make you the owner of PSG or Barca, who would you choose? Even though Barca just got smoked. Yah, I would take Barca as well so consider that before taking this media apocalypse crap as truth. The intelligent discussion and articles in football is becoming a thing of the past, replaced by 2 second sound-bytes and misleading click bait headlines. Check any site, it is all hate filled articles about Luis Enrique and Arsene. Tomorrow it could be Carlo Ancellotti or Zidane. That is how fickle this all is.

    Thanks goodness for Portugoal and oh yah, well done Benfica! :)

    from Burlington, ON, Canada
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  • Guest - jon/usa

    There really isn't much for me to add in terms of any sort of analysis of the first leg. Apart from perhaps the first 10 minutes of the first half and the first 5 minutes of the second, Dortmund were, by far, the better team. Our back four lacks the pace to play a high line against such a dynamic attack and when we sat two deep, we really struggled to find an outlet ball on the counter. This Dortmund side can press better than just about any other club side in Europe, but if you do manage to bypass their first line of pressing (which is easier said than done of course) they will give you plenty of space to exploit. You have to give Tuchel a great deal of praise for such a high-intensity, attack-minded approach to each game, but it does leave them exposed defensively.

    If the second leg is a carbon copy of the first, but with more clinical finishing from the Germans, we could be looking at a 2-0 or 3-1 Dortmund victory, but if Rui Vitoria learns from the mistakes we made on Tuesday, and if Jonas and Zivkovic are in the starting 11, I think we have every chance of going through. In other words, I don't see Dortmund playing any better than they did in the first leg, whereas I still see plenty of room for improvement in Benfica. We need to defend as a compact, disciplined, cohesive unit, closing down passing lanes and forcing them out wide (similar to what we did against Bayern last year). We are much better suited to defend against crosses than against a team that link up quickly in between the lines. We also need to be far more precise with our counter attacks. The presence of Jonas and Zivkovic could certainly help.

    Overall, both sides will be going into the second leg knowing that they have a pretty good chance to advance. While it will be far from easy, I have no doubt that Benfica is more than capable of getting a positive result of Rui Vitoria opts for the correct approach. This Borussia Dortmund side has one of the most explosive attacks in Europe, but they are certainly not without their flaws.

    CARREGA BENFICA!!!!

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  • Guest - Andre/UK

    Some good points made here, people! Jon, I agree entirely that defence is Dortmund's weak point and it's disappointing that we didn't exploit this weakness more in the first leg. We really need to find a better approach in the second leg to be able exploit this weakness of theirs a lot better. I think Benfica will have a big chance to score again in Germany, because as you say Jon, Dortmund leave a lot of space at the back due to their full throttle attacking approach, and this should be even more of the case with them behind in the tie and chasing the game. We gotta have the right strategy to capitalize on this.

    Steve Australia, yes I think having 3 in the middle is fundamental for the second match. Dortmund showed in the first match how much more dynamic and aggresive and quicker they are than us in the middle, thus we need an extra player there. I have liked the look of our new signing Filipe Augusto so far and despite his relative inexperience, I would start him in the second leg. He has a physical presence and passing range that could be very useful for the likely conditions of the second match.

    So if everyone is available (doubt they will be the way this season has gone for us in terms of injuries, lol) and it were up to me, I'd go with the 4-2-3-1 formation: the same back 5, Fejsa and Augusto protecting the defence, with Pizzi further forward, Zivkovic on the right wing, Rafa Silva on the left and Mitroglou as the lone striker. Zivkovic is our most in-form winger (was really missed on Tuesday) and is the best crosser of the ball in the squad, so has to start. While Rafa, despite not having made the quickest of starts to his SLB career so far, does have the attributes we need for making pacey and direct counter attacks. As much as Jonas was missed in the first match, he doesn't really work well as the lone striker (he's just not a number 9), so I think in the second leg he could come off the bench if we find ourselves behind in the tie and need to get more attacking and revert to 4-4-2. So let's see what happens, I have confidence in the team scoring again in Germany, which would give us a great chance to qualify. On the other hand, an inspired Dortmund has the attacking potential to really hammer just about any opposition in front of their own fans. So anything could happen, we'll just have to wait and see.

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  • Guest - Dan D

    If Benfica is to advance next week, than the team is going to need to score. Its players are going to have to score, simply put. If not, watch Dortmund's players, especially those who performed poorly, to have huge games.

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