The UEFA Champions League qualifying stages are often quite tense, and they often throw up a few surprise results – but in this instance, the status quo was maintained as Benfica edged out a 1-0 victory over Fenerbahce to give them the advantage heading into the second leg next week. The Portuguese side, who are set to try and wrestle back control of the top flight from Porto this season, kept a solid tempo throughout the game and had a clear game plan from the word go – but so did the Turks.
Fenerbahce were often able to neutralise any Benfica attacks throughout the first half, which was a pretty uneventful affair. Given that the visitors knew an away goal would put them in a fantastic position you’d think they may have gone for it a little bit more than they did, but Benfica were strong defensively in what proved to be a stalemate of a first half.
Neither team would’ve wanted to ‘blink first’ so to speak, but it was clear to see that Benfica were the dominant team and they just needed to stay composed and wait for the goal to come – which it eventually did. Franco Cervi was the man who got it with just over twenty minutes remaining in the game, sparing Benfica the embarrassment of not being able to put away a Fenerbahce side who mustered up just three shots over the course of ninety minutes.
The game started to go downhill once again from a quality perspective, with all four yellow cards that were registered in the encounter taking place in the final 15 minutes. Fenerbahce were obviously extremely frustrated by conceding the late goal and reacted with some harsh challenges, which Benfica responded to in kind. Still, the Turkish side didn’t implode as many others would, meaning that they still have a solid chance of progressing if they can start off the first leg brightly next week.
Both teams will be in action prior to the second leg next week, which is sure to be an eventful affair. Benfica will be squaring off against Vitoria SC whereas Fenerbahce will be playing Bursaspor, as the major European leagues up and down the country begin to resume proceedings as domestic football returns with a bang.
In terms of what the second leg will hold it’ll be interesting to see how Fenerbahce try and approach the encounter, knowing that they need to not only score, but also prevent Benfica from getting a key away goal. The Portuguese side are clearly more well-rounded, but if they allow themselves to get too overconfident and lose their structure, then the rowdy Fenerbahce crowd could end up spurring their side on towards a result that you’d think was unlikely based on this performance.
Benfica: Vlachodimos (7), Almeida (6.5), Alves Dias (7), Jardel (6.5), Grimaldo (6), Pizzi (7.5), Fejsa (6.5), Carvalho Fernandes (6), Salvio (6.5), Ferreyra (6), Cervi (7.5)
Fenerbahce: Demirel (6), Isla (6.5), Neustadter (6), Skrtel (5.5), Kaldirim (6), Elmas (6.5), Topal (6), Dirar (6), Giuliano (6), Valbuena (6.5), Potuk (6)
Referee: Aleksei Kulbakov
Yellow Cards: Elmas, Ekici, Grimaldo, Soldado
Red Cards: N/A
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