A Rafa Silva-inspired SL Benfica progressed into the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League (UCL) with a 4-3 win over a Juventus side that was second-best for much of the 90 minutes. The defeat means the Italian outfit will not qualify from the group stage for the first time since 2013, Abbeylivenetwork.com reports.
Benfica went into the game on the back of a 21-match unbeaten run, and Roger Schmidt’s men quickly set about making it another magical European night at the Estádio da Luz. Helped by a meek Juventus starting XI that avoided tackling at all costs, the Portuguese side dominated the early stages and took the lead after 15 minutes. António Silva was on the end of an Enzo Fernández cross after a quickly taken corner, and the teenager notched his first goal in professional football with a glancing header that flew past Wojciech Szczęsny between the Juventus sticks.
An unlikely equaliser followed, as Benfica failed to defend a corner and Moise Kean bundled home from close range. La Vecchia Signora would be level for just four minutes, however, as João Mário fired home from the penalty spot after referee Srđan Jovanović perhaps unfairly judged that Juan Cuadrado had handled in the area. There was nothing debatable about Benfica’s third goal, though, as R.Silva underlined his excellent first-half performance by delicately flicking home a Mário cross.
It was the first time Juventus had ever conceded three first-half goals in the UCL, and the fortunes of Massimiliano Allegri’s team did not look like changing initially after the interval. Eight minutes into the second half, Leonardo Bonucci gifted possession to Álex Grimaldo and the full-back threaded a delightful ball through to R.Silva, who nonchalantly lifted it over Szczęsny.
What looked like a comprehensive victory became a nail-biter as Arkadiusz Milik volleyed home from a Samuel Iling-Junior cross, and just two minutes later Weston McKennie scrambled home to bring his team to within one strike of salvaging an unlikely point. As Juventus poured forward, R. Silva missed a late chance to calm the nerves of the home fans, as he hammered his shot against the post when one-on-one with the goalkeeper. In the end, though, the Eagles held on to a deserved victory and, if Paris Saint-Germain fail to beat Juventus next week, a win over Maccabi Haifa will secure top spot in Group H for Schmidt and Co.