Benfica coach Rui Vitoria was brimming with confidence after his team snatched a 1-0 Champions League win over Zenit at Estadio da Luz.
Vitoria’s men looked set for another frustrating evening in front of their home supporters in the first leg of the last-16 tie, following Friday’s 2-1 defeat against bitter rivals Porto.
Zenit were playing competitively for the first time in 10 weeks due to the Russian Premier League’s lengthy mid-season break and were poised to hold out for a hard-earned draw despite flagging during the closing stages on Tuesday.
But full-back Domenico Criscito was sent off for a second-bookable offence and, from the resulting free-kick, Benfica’s top scorer Jonas headed home to spark delirious celebrations in stoppage time.
Vitoria felt it was a well-deserved triumph and he was bullish about his team’s chances in St Petersburg – where Zenit won each of their group games to qualify for the knockout stages.
“We had the match almost always under control and, tactically, we were perfect,” he said, as quoted by UEFA.com.
“I think we deserved to score earlier. I am very happy with my players. We won because of our persistence and because of the way we worked.
“1-0 is always a good result in European competitions and I am almost 100 per cent sure that we will score in St Petersburg.”
Teenage midfielder Renato Sanches did not share his coach’s bombast, stating Benfica were lucky to snatch a tight contest while anticipating a tough ride in Russia two weeks.
“It was a very even game. We played against a very good team, and we were fortunate to score near the end,” he said, as quoted by UEFA.com.
“I feel more confident after each game and I want to thank the fans for all the support they have been giving me.
“It will be a different game in Russia, even more with the cold that we will probably get there, which we are not used to.”
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