Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Benfica blow a tire late and now set for fight to remain in UEFA

Benfica Blog
Benfica coughed up a two goal lead after the 89th minute to German side RB Leipzig ending any hopes of advancing to the round of 16 in Champions League action. The draw in Germany eliminated Benfica from progressing and the club will now need to win their last home game against Zenit to have any hope of remaining in UEFA this season and moving into the Europa League as the third place team in the group. The final round of games could result in many tie breaker scenarios which we will review at the end of the blog after the game recap.

Benfica came into the game knowing they needed a road win to keep their Champions League hopes alive after Zenit defeated Lyon in the earlier game. Benfica started the game on the right foot as Chiquinho tried his luck from range but his volley just went over the net two minutes in. Leipzig captain Forsberg then would get a break when Benfica midfielder Taarabt lost possession in a poor position but his effort sliced over the bar. The clubs continued to exchange chances in the first twenty minutes but it would be Benfica who would open the scoring when Pizzi would drill his shot into the bottom right corner to give Benfica a 1-0 lead. Leipzig would then look for the equalizer after a Benfica defensive error but Vlachodimos would be up for the challenge making the stop on Nkunku. Vlachodimos would be tested again within minutes first stopping a Forsberg low strike, he would follow that up with a spectacular palm save on Sabitzer from the center of the box as Leipzig took control of the game. Benfica though would come close to scoring before the half when a Pizzi curled shot would clip the post and go wide. The half would end with Benfica up 1-0 even though Leipzig controlled large portions of the first half.

The second half would see Leipzig score just four minutes in but the goal would be disallowed as Upamecano was in an offside position. Leipzig's Werner then sent in a dangerous flick into the box for Sabitzer but Vlachodimos emerged from his goal to punch the ball away. Benfica then doubled their lead as Taarabt would intercept a pass and send Vinicius away on goal, the Benfica striker would find himself alone with Leipzig keeper Gulacsi after defender Klostermann's slip, he would make no mistake sending the ball to the low left corner and Benfica were up 2-0 with thirty minutes to go. Leipzig would get a chance to cut the lead in half shortly after but Nkunku's shot would go off the side of the netting. Vlachodimos would once again be called upon to stop Forsberg at the 71st minute when the midfielders curling effort was caught by the keeper. Benfica continued to defend as Leipzig continued their onslaught and a well worked Leipzig play was thwarted by Ferro who cleared away the danger at the 80th minute. Benfica substitute Raul de Tomas then tried his luck six minutes before time, when he spotted Leipzig substitute keeper Mvogo off his line, his long range shot would be palmed wide of the goal as Mvogo would get back just in the nick of time. The missed opportunity would come back to haunt Benfica as just four minutes later defender Ruben Dias would make a needless challenge bringing down striker Schick who had just flicked the ball past him and Leipzig was awarded a penalty. Forsberg would step up to the penalty spot and send Vlachodimos the wrong way cutting Benfica's lead in half. 
A questionable nine minutes of additional time would then be awarded and Leipzig's Forsberg would rise highest to meet a Werner cross, heading the ball past Vlachodimos to bring the game level at the 96th minute mark. This is how it would end with Benfica drawing 2-2 and remaining in the basement of their respective group with one game remaining in their Champions League campaign a disappointing result to one of the clubs better European performances in years.

Benfica now only have hopes of continuing their European campaign in the Europa League and will need to defeat Zenit to have any chance of reaching this scenario. What would need to happen for Benfica to finish third in their group.

1- A Benfica win by any score over Zenit and a Lyon loss to Leipzig and Benfica would finish third with Zenit moving to second spot and Lyon dropping to last.

2- A Benfica win of 2-0 over Zenit and a Lyon win or draw againt Leipzig would see Benfica third and Zenit drop to last spot.

3- A Lyon win or draw over Leipzig and if Zenit scores just one goal against Benfica, then Benfica would need to defeat Zenit by three goals to finish third and have Zenit drop to last spot in the group.

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