Benfica vs. Zenit  2 - 0


Champions League: Benfica 2 Zenit St Petersburg 0 (agg 4-3)

7 March 2012 03:07

Benfica progressed to the last eight of the Champions League 4-3 on aggregate, thanks to a 2-0 win over Zenit St Petersburg on Tuesday.

After losing the first leg 3-2 in St Petersburg on February 15, a goal from Maxi Pereira moments before half-time and another from Nelson Oliveira in second-half injury time saw Jorge Jesus' men run out comfortable winners in the round-of-16 second leg at Estadio da Luz.

The mach started out at a high tempo, with hosts Benfica enjoying the majority of possession during the early exchanges.

Axel Witsel created the first opportunity of note for the Liga Sagres team.

His pass picked out Bruno Cesar, who tried his luck from the edge of the box, but Zenit goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev successfully blocked the shot.

Benfica remained in control and they came close to scoring again five minutes later, when Pereira played a one-two with Nicolas Gaitan.

Regaining possession, Pereira shot across goal from a tight angle, with no team-mate on hand to tap the ball home.

Against the run of play, the visitors almost broke the deadlock in the 42nd minute, when a loose ball fell in the path of Roman Shirokov.

The Russian midfielder aimed his shot at the bottom right corner of the goal, but Benfica goalkeeper Artur was able to save it on the second attempt.

The home side recovered from the scare to take the lead shortly before the half-time whistle.

Witsel had a shot from inside the box parried away by Malafeev, but from the rebound the Belgium international played a marvellous back-heeled pass to Pereira, who slotted home from close range.

In the 67th minute, Oscar Cardozo had a chance to put the outcome beyond doubt when he gathered a loose ball in a threatening possession, only to shoot wide of goal with just Malafeev to beat.

As the game wore on, Zenit struggled to produce any kind of threat, allowing Benfica to double their lead in injury time.

Cesar sent through Oliveira, and the substitute calmly beat Malafeev to seal a 2-0 win on the night, sending his team through 4-3 on aggregate.

It was a deserved victory for Benfica, who will learn their next opponents when the draw for the quarter-finals takes place on March 16.


Jesus thrilled with Benfica progress

7 March 2012 01:50

Benfica coach Jorge Jesus was pleased with a job well done after his team defeated Zenit St Petersburg 2-0 in the Champions League.

Hosts Benfica trailed 3-2 on aggregate going into the round-of-16 second leg at Estadio da Luz.

But goals from Maxi Pereira and Nelson Oliveira sealed victory, sending the Liga Sagres side through to the quarter-finals.

"Our tactics and strategy went well tonight," Jesus said.

"We were up against a great team, the best in Russia."

"It was important to score first as we knew they could cause us problems if we didn't. Once we went ahead we were able to hit them on the counterattack."

"In the second half, they had more possession but we could have made it 2-0 earlier. I was pleased that Nelson Oliveira was able to finish the match off."

"If possible we would like to face an English opponent in the next round, maybe Chelsea. I wouldn't like to face Real Madrid, they have many Portuguese - and former Benfica - players."

Zenit coach Luciano Spalletti felt his team were undone by their lack of experience in Europe's elite club competition, particularly away from home.

"We must admit that Benfica deserved the victory," Spalletti said.

"We underperformed and we still lack experience at this level."

"It has been a feature of our away games that our opponents have shown more quality and we have encountered a mental barrier that we need to overcome."

"We did not perform as well as we can tonight. After the break we tried to control the game and created a number of chances that could have earned a result, but Benfica were simply better than us this time."

"Reaching the last 16 is a major achievement for us and we performed solidly all season. Today we weren't so good but we've had great wins during this campaign - against FC Porto, for example."

"When you are in the knockout stages you can't expect opponents to make mistakes that will make life easier for you. You need to be at your peak."


Home advantage gives Jesus confidence

6 March 2012 15:40

Benfica coach Jorge Jesus is brimming with confidence ahead of his side's Champions League round of 16 second leg against Zenit St Petersburg.

The Portuguese giants were beaten 3-2 in the first leg in Russia, but Jesus believes Benfica have what it takes to secure qualification for the quarter-finals at home.

"In our stadium with a good pitch and normal weather, we can qualify," he said.

"We know that we're playing a good side, a strong one, with five players in the Russia team that beat Denmark last week."

"Apart from their individuals they are tactically very strong too but in our stadium, with our fans behind us, I think we can win."

"We want to reach the quarter-finals and after the result in the away leg, with our fans and our quality I think we'll do it."

"This tie was 50-50 after the draw was made but our two away goals give us some confidence and we feel that we can qualify though, as I say again, Zenit are a very strong side."


Champions League preview: Benfica vs Zenit

5 March 2012 08:24

Benfica must end a form slump if they are to progress from their Champions League round-of-16 tie against Zenit St Petersburg.

Jorge Jesus' men are winless in their last four matches, a poor run of form that started with the 3-2 defeat against Zenit in the first leg on February 15.

The most recent defeat was a 3-2 loss to Liga Sagres rivals Porto on Friday, and Jesus said it was important for his side to put the result behind them.

"We must move on because we are in a reasonable situation to eliminate Zenit. Let's see if the team can recover from the defeat because the players feel this one was undeserved," he told Portuguese television.

"The return of trust requires victories. In the last four matches, we drew one and lost three so we go into this Champions League match in a situation which is not easy, but this is our life."

They have slipped three points adrift of Liga Sagres leaders Porto, but have an excellent record in European matches at Estadio da Luz.

Benfica have lost just one of their last 19 European home games, winning 15 of those outings.

Paraguayan forward Oscar Cardozo tops Benfica's goal-scoring in both the league and in Europe, and he will again play a vital role after also being on the scoresheet during the first-leg loss in Russia.

Pablo Aimar will also be a danger, while his Argentine countryman Ezequiel Garay could miss the clash because of a knee injury.

For Luciano Spalletti's Zenit, Roman Shirokov - who netted a brace in the first leg - and the likes of Serbian forward Danko Lazovic and striker Aleksandr Kerzhakov will cause problems.

The visitors will be without Portuguese midfielder Danny because of a knee injury, while on-loan Arsenal attacker Andrei Arshavin is ineligible after playing for the English Premier League side earlier in the competition.

Zenit's league campaign resumed after a three-month break with a 2-2 draw against CSKA Moscow on Saturday, and how the team fare playing twice in quick succession could be decisive.

Benfica have struggled in recent times, but a must-win home clash in the Champions League shapes as a perfect opportunity to turn their fortunes around.

Primeira Liga table

# Team MP D P
1 11 +26 31
2 11 +17 27
3 11 +15 26
4 11 +8 22
5 11 +4 22

Premier League table

# Team MP D P
1 16 +12 33
2 16 +14 30
3 17 +7 29
4 16 +8 27
5 16 +4 25