Dynamic performance secures victory for Benfica

Benfica 2 Zenit St Petersburg 0 (Benfica win 4-3 on aggregate)

Dynamic performance secures victory for Benfica

Benfica 2 Zenit St Petersburg 0 (Benfica win 4-3 on aggregate)

Benfica produced a dynamic performance to overturn a first-leg deficit against Zenit St Petersburg and earn a place in the last eight of the Champions League.

The Portuguese team trailed 3-2 from the first match, which was played in freezing conditions at the Stadion Petrovskiy, with Roman Shirokov scoring his second goal of the night to win the game after Oscar Cardozo had levelled late on.

But they attacked the Russian outfit from the off tonight and, even when Maxi Pereira’s goal in first-half injury-time put them on course to win on away goals, the Eagles pushed on until Nelson Oliveira secured the outright win in the 92nd minute.

A quiet opening to the clash saw Nicolas Gaitan’s shot the only moment of interest, as the Benfica midfielder’s drilled left-footed effort from the edge of the box was blocked by Nicolas Lombaerts.

Bruno Cesar was next to have a go when his left-footed shot forced Viacheslav Malafeev into a smart parry away.

Playmaker Gaitan continued to beaver away earnestly in a bid to create something before Maxi Pereira fired off target. The attacking waves continued as Rodrigo saw a right-footed shot blocked by the ever-alert Lombaerts in the Zenit defence.

In the 25th minute Javi Garcia was next to see an effort stopped by the all-action Lombaerts, who kept putting his body on the line for the Russians’ cause.

Defender Emerson fired over from 25 yards and Bruno Cesar was similarly wayward as half-time approached.

Tomas Hubocan had Zenit’s first shot in the 43rd minute but failed to beat Artur Moraes, who saved comfortably, before Axel Witsel wasted arguably Benfica’s best chance in first-half added time when he saw his shot from close range saved by Malafeev.

Zenit failed to heed the warning, though, and it was 1-0 on the night less than a minute later. Witsel sent the ball in from the right and Pereira arrived to guide the ball from from inside the six-yard box.

Zenit sent on Danko Lazovic in a bid to enliven their performance, knowing Benfica’s away goals were sending them through.

The Russian side were pressing but Benfica had further chances through Witsel and Jardel.

Oscar Cardozo wasted two shots for the hosts but got a third on target, while Jardel headed wide with less than 10 minutes to go.

Former Porto defender Bruno Alves saw a speculative effort easily caught by Benfica stopper Artur.

Nelson Oliveira was off target but, after Viktor Faitzulin’s poor effort at the other end, the substitute secured the aggregate win two minutes into added time by getting on the end of Bruno Cesar’s clever pass from the right and firing home a slightly deflected effort from 12 yards.

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