Twice European champions Benfica reached
the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since 2006 when goals by
Uruguay's Maxi Pereira and Portugal's Nelson Oliveira secured a convincing 2-0
win over Russia's Zenit St Petersburg on Tuesday.
Benfica overturned a 3-2 deficit from the first leg in Russia to progress
4-3 on aggregate after dominating possession and restricting Zenit to sporadic
Benfica kept pouring forward and the tactic paid off when the energetic
Pereira scored from close range in first-half stoppage-time following a neat
backheel from Belgium international Axel Witsel.
"Benfica and its fans deserve to be in the quarter-finals, specially those
around their twenties who never saw Benfica in its widest European glory,"
Benfica coach Jorge Jesus told reporters.
"We knew that Zenit was not going to mind that we kept most of the ball,
therefore we needed to score first so they would try and come out at us," Jesus
Substitute Nelson Oliveira, who made his Portugal debut against Poland last
week, grabbed the second goal just before the final whistle.
Benfica, European champions in 1961 and 1962, repeated their feat of six
years ago when they knocked out Premier League Liverpool in the round of 16
before losing to Barcelona in the quarter-finals.
Benfica dominated the first half and got their reward when Witsel's
close-range shot was parried but he kept his cool to lay the rebound off for
Pereira to slot in.
"Getting that first goal at the end of the first half brought us
tranquility, the team deserved the win," Pereira said.
Man-of-the-match Witsel moved further forward due to the absence of
first-choice playmaker Pablo Aimar and he rose to the challenge, not only
winning many balls in the midfield but also acting as the prime creator for
Russian champions Zenit employed a more physical approach and seemed happy
to concede most of the possession, opting instead for hitting Benfica on the
"We tried to defend our advantage the best we could but now we will just
have to keep working to be Russian champions," said Zenit defender Bruno Alves.
Benfica finished off the visitors in second-half stoppage-time when the
promising Oliveira scored with a clinical strike.
"The coach told me space would be opening up in the second half and that
there would be chances for me to score and so it was. We put in a great
display," said the 20-year-old Oliveira, dubbed "Portugal's Cantona" in
reference to former Manchester United and France striker Eric Cantona.
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