It wasn’t spectacular, nor vibrant. But she was safe and grown up. Benfica took a huge step forward towards the quarter-finals of the Champions League, with a 0-2 triumph in Belgium over Club Brugge, in the first leg of the “eighth”, a result that leaves the formation “incarnate ” very safe for the second leg, on the 7th of March, in Luz.
Those who expected a dominating display and a robust victory by Benfica over Club Brugge were wrong. Neither the “incarnates” were as good as they were in this Champions League, nor were the Belgians as bad as their recent form suggested (a victory in the last ten games). The difference in value is indisputable and the victory by two goals is important, but it is not the end of the competitiveness of this tie. This Club Brugge has some arguments to still fight for the qualification, above all, some individuals that can make the difference.
In the game of expectations, a devouring and offensive Benfica was expected and a shy and expectant Club Brugge. The first signal came from the Portuguese team at 3′, with a header from Gonçalo Ramos into the hands of Mignolet. But the second, and with much greater danger, came right after from the left flank, in which Buchanan advanced along the flank, managed to reach the small area and only the good positioning of Vlachodimos prevented the goal for the team led by the British Scott Parker.
There followed a period of some dominance by the Belgian champions, with more ball possession and some dangerous approaches, but Benfica was an adult team to realize that it was not the time to open spaces. It stayed compact and waited for its moment to attack. When he did, the goal was close several times, as in a shot by Aursnes wide in the 24th minute, a header by António Silva over the top in the 26th minute, a ball on the post by Rafa in the 30th minute or a new header by Ramos that also flew over the beam.
With all the opportunities not realized, Benfica still saw the ball enter their goal. In a direct free-kick by Noa Lang (the Dutch international was one of the best on the field) just after added time, Odoi managed to reach the second post and the ball ended up inside Vlachodimos’ goal – the Ghanaian still celebrated, but was ahead the moment the ball went towards him.
After the scare, came the break. And after the break came the goal. At 49′, in an apparently harmless move, Hendry brought down Gonçalo Ramos and the Italian referee Davide Massa had no hesitation in signaling a penalty. From the 11-metre mark, João Mário was unable to deceive Mignolet, but the ball hit with such force that it went in.
The score worked for the Portuguese side and, during almost the entire second half, the “incarnates” taught a lesson on how to be an adult team in a Champions game. They reduced the risk to a minimum, let Club Brugge give their “everything for everything” (which was very little) and even scored one more goal, towards the end, with David Neres taking advantage of a tremendous challenge from the Belgian defensive line to do the second, giving an additional layer of tranquility for the reunion in the Light.