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Astana 2 Benfica 2: Jimenez double seals comeback

Benfica fought back from two goals down to draw 2-2 at Astana and close in on a place in the Champions League knockout stages.

Headers from Patrick Twumasi and Marin Anicic had the hosts comfortably ahead in Kazakhstan, before Raul Jimenez pulled a goal back for Benfica just before half-time.

Jimenez then struck again with a low finish 18 minutes from time to eliminate Astana, who drew all three of their home matches in Group C.

Benfica are now three points above Atletico Madrid and six clear of third-placed Galatasaray, and any result but a victory for the Turkish side when those two sides play later on Wednesday would send Rui Vitoria’s team through to the last 16.

A header from Lisandro Lopez and a long shot from Goncalo Guedes forced home goalkeeper Nenad Eric into early saves.

Astana responded when an excellent cross from Foxi Kethevoama found Twumasi at the far post but the Ghanaian could not control to get a shot away despite being completely unmarked at the far post.

Moments later, though, Twumasi made no mistake. Junior Kabananga whipped in a brilliant cross from the left and the forward firmly planted a header back across keeper Julio Cesar and into the net from close range.

Astana doubled their lead on 31 minutes. Kethevoama whipped in an in-swinging free kick to which Anicic – who looked to be marginally offside – got the faintest of touches, with an indecisive Cesar unable to keep it out.

Eric made a strong two-handed save to deny a sweetly struck left-footed half-volley from Pizzi, before Jonas lashed a brilliant long-range shot just wide.

Benfica got back into the game four minutes before half-time when Jonas latched on to Silvio’s throw-in to deliver a first-time cross from the right that was headed home powerfully by Jimenez.

Astana wanted Lopez sent off after he cynically brought down Twumasi as he raced through on goal, but the defender instead received a yellow card from referee Ruddy Buquet.

Twumasi was then only just off-target with a thumping shot from distance as a thrilling first half came to an end.

After the break, Guedes could not beat Eric after latching on to an excellent Renato Sanches pass while Kethevoama had an effort saved at the other end.

Kabananga had a good opportunity to seal the points after surging forward after receiving Serikzhan Muzhikov’s pass but Cesar saved his left-footed shot with his trailing leg.

And that proved costly with 18 minutes remaining when Jimenez steered a clever first-time finish in off the far post from Andre Almeida’s cutback to move his side one step closer to the last 16.

Wed 25 Nov, 2015
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