LONDON - Twice European champions Benfica
earned an important two-goal cushion in the first leg of their
Champions League third qualifying round tie against Turkish side
Trabzonspor on Wednesday, winning 2-0 in Lisbon.
The Portuguese club, who reigned supreme in 1961 and 1962,
will start as favourites for the second leg after late goals
from Spanish midfielder Nolito and Argentine Nicolas Gaitan (pictured) left
Trabzonspor facing an uphill task.
There were also first leg wins for Croatian champions Dinamo
Zagreb, FC Copenhagen, Czech's Viktoria Plzen and Israel's
"My team pleasantly surprised me today, we were physically
stronger than Trabzonspor in the second half," said Benfica
coach Jorge Jesus.
"The first goal was key, we played with a lot
of experience and Nolito came in fresh at a time when
Trabzonspor were giving away more space."
Dinamo Zagreb will also approach their second leg next week full of
confidence thanks to a 2-1 victory in Finland against HJK
Helsinki achieved with a late goal by Brazilian Sammir.
Dinamo, who have not reached the Champions League group
stage since 1999, went behind when Alexander Ring fired the
hosts ahead with a superb 15th-minute lob.
The visitors equalised four minutes later with a comical
own-goal by Brazilian defender Rafinha who miscued an attempted
clearance straight past his helpless keeper.
Shamrock Rovers kept alive their dream of becoming the first
Irish team to reach the Champions League's group stages as a 1-0
away defeat in Copenhagen, who reached the round of 16 last
season, set up a lively second leg in Dublin.
Denmark's other representatives in the round, Odense BK,
drew 1-1 at home to Greek club Panathinaikos - Tore Reginiussen
equalising for the hosts in the last minute.
Plzen, playing in the Champions League qualifying rounds for
the first time, had Vaclav Pilar to thank for a 1-0 victory away
to Norwegian side Rosenborg.
Haifa edged a narrow 2-1 home win against Maribor while
Belgium's Standard Liege drew 1-1 at home to FC Zurich after
Nacho Gonzalez came off the bench to equalise in the 90th minute
after Admir Mehmedi put the Swiss side ahead.
The third qualifying round winners are battling for a spot
in the playoff matches where they could seal a berth in the
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