Thursday, February 20, 2020

Benfica escape Ukraine with narrow loss against Shakhtar

Benfica Blog
In frigid temperatures in Donetsk, Benfica escaped a poor first half showing to leave Ukraine with a narrow 2-1 loss and earning the all important away goal as they travel home to face Shakhtar next week at the Estadio da Luz needing only a low scoring victory to advance into the Europa League round of 16. Shakhtar who had not played a competitive game after a long winter break since December 14 was the livelier of the two clubs as Benfica battled temperatures hovering around zero celsius during the game. Shakhtar got the first good scoring chance at the 20 minute mark but Junior Moraes had his close range shot turned aside by Benfica keeper Vlachodimos. Shakhtar then thought they had opened the scoring at the 22nd minute mark but a Marlos goal was rightly ruled off side by VAR. Shakhtar continued the onslaught and just two minues later Vlachodimos came up big once again turning aside a Kovalenko howitzer as Benfica remained pinned back for most of the half. Pizzi would get Benfica's best chance of the first half sending a shot just wide of the post as the half neared but Benfica went into halftime lucky to not be down by a pair of goals and without registering a shot on target during the half. 

The second half started much the same as the first with Shakhtar pressing and at the 50th minute Ismaily ringed one of the far post as the game remained scoreless. Alan Patrick would finally break the deadlock at the 56th minute finishing off a pretty tic tac toe passing play to give Shakhtar a much deserved 1-0 lead but Benfica would finally get a break and were awarded a penalty on a strange call that saw a Tavares goal called back after Cervi was brought down in the box but instead of playing advantage and letting the goal stand the Scottish referee overturned the goal siting an offside and Pizzi would then convert from the spot bringing the game level 1-1 at the 66 minute mark. Ruben Dias would then lose a battle for the ball just outside the box to Taison and Kovalenko would make him pay finishing off a pretty pass by Junior Morais as Shakhtar regained their lead just five minutes after losing it. Grimaldo would then whip a shot on goal that was turned aside by Shakhtar keeper Pyatov as Benfica looked for the equalizer but that would by as close as they got losing 2-1 to Shakhtar and going home to the Estadio da Luz for the second leg next week needing a victory to have any chance of advancing to the round of 16.

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