Benfica in Champions League quarters after six years
Lisbon: Benfica are back in the Champions League football quarterfinals after six years, the Portuguese team recovering from a 2-3 first-leg disadvantage to put it across Zenit St. Petersburg 4-3.
Benfica overturned the first-leg deficit in Russia to progress after dominating possession and restricting Zenit to sporadic counter-attacks.
Benfica were trying to exorcise their crisis after four games without a win. The bad phase started with the defeat in Russia, the second defeat of the season, reports Xinhua.
Benfica thereafter had three defeats and lost the lead in the Portuguese league, coming from a five-point lead to three points behind their rivals Porto.
In the first half, Zenith doggedly defended in a bid to keep their slender first-leg advantage. Though Benfica had more ball control, they found it difficult to push through the last 25 metres.
The game changed in the first half overtime. A precise pass by Bruno Cesar found Witsel in front of the goal, but his shot was blocked by goalkeeper Malafaev.On the rebound, Witsel back-heeled pass to Maxi Pereira to score.
In the second half, Benfica retreated trying to score on counterattacks. Zenith needed to score the equaliser to stay in the Champions League and replaced midfielders for attackers. But Benfica defended well and Zenith only had three shots at goal.
Two minutes into overtime, in a fast move, Bruno Cesar passed the ball to the rookie Nelson Oliveira, who scored in his first Champions League match and the goal saw Benfica through.