Georgy Schennikov’s first-half strike and a Jardel own goal earned CSKA Moscow a 2-0 win over Benfica on Wednesday, keeping the Russian side’s hopes of Champions League progression alive.
With nine points on the board, CSKA travel to Old Trafford next month to take on Group A leaders Manchester United knowing their fate is in their own hands, although they will be without key players Bibras Natcho and Pontus Wernbloom through suspension.
Benfica’s rotten campaign continues with another defeat and the Portuguese side are guaranteed to finish bottom of the pool, having been beaten in all five of their games, scoring just one goal, after suffering the ignominy of having CSKA goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev record his first clean sheet in the Champions League proper since November 2006 – 43 appearances ago – against them.
After losing their previous two Champions League home games, CSKA were desperate for an improved performance in front of their own fans at VEB Arena and they opened the scoring after 13 minutes.
A deflection off Benfica defender Eliseu fell kindly for Natcho to slot a pass through to Schennikov, who finished well but may have been offside when the ball was played.
Another ricochet gave CSKA their decisive second goal, Vitinho’s attempted cross turned into his own goal by unlucky Benfica centre-back Jardel, whose side exit Europe entirely as a result of their latest loss.
CSKA had a golden opportunity in the fourth minute when Wernbloom laid the ball off for Vitinho, but his placed 20-yard strike bent well wide of the post.
Sustained pressure from the Russian side soon led to the opener, Natcho slipping in Schennikov to compose himself and beat Bruno Varela, although the rampaging wing-back may have been marginally offside.
— #TeamOfTheYear (@ChampionsLeague) November 22, 2017
Benfica should have equalised immediately, a cute header back into the box from Diogo Goncalves finding an unmarked Jonas, who cushioned a presentable volley well wide.
But it was CSKA who continued to make the running, Varela making a superb save to his left to keep out a fizzing half-volley from Alan Dzagoev after 26 minutes.
Benfica’s first shot on target came just before the interval via Eliseu’s hopeful 30-yard drive, but Akinfeev made a comfortable save.
Wernbloom wasted a great chance to tee up Dzagoev after 54 minutes, with CSKA beginning to feel the pressure, before Akinfeev had to make a decent stop to deny Andre Almeida.
— SL Benfica EN (@slbenfica_en) November 22, 2017
And CSKA then wrapped up the points thanks to an unfortunate own goal from Jardel.
The defender lunged in to try and block a cross from Vitinho, but could only turn the ball past the helpless Varela.
CSKA should have extended their lead further, but Vitinho lashed into the side netting from a tight angle after 66 minutes with Dzagoev well-placed for a pass in the middle of the box.
Although Benfica coach Rui Vitoria made a raft of attacking changes, his side were resigned to their fate and Russia international Akinfeev was left virtually untested as he ended his 11-year wait for a Champions League shutout.
Igor Akinfeev has kept his first Champions League clean sheet (not including qualifiers) since 1st November 2006 against Arsenal – ending a run of 43 games without one! Via @OptaJoe.#CSKA #UCL pic.twitter.com/zGcTkqkO82
— Omnisport (@OmnisportNews) November 22, 2017
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