quarta-feira, 7 de março de 2012


Buoyant Benfica cruise past Zenit for quarter-final place

Benfica’s Maxi Pereira, top, vies with Zenit Saint-Petersburg’s Aleksandr Anyukov during their match in Lisbon, Portugal, on Tuesday.

Two injury-time goals courtesy of Maxi Pereira and Nelson Oliveira secured Benfica’s passage to the Champions League quarter-finals on Tuesday with a convincing 2-0 win over Zenit Saint-Petersburg.

Jorge Jesus’ side had succumbed 3-2 in Russia in the first leg of the knockout phase after Roman Shirokov stunned the Portuguese by scoring the second of a brace of goals in the 88th minute.

Goals from Pereira, in first-half injury-time, and Oliveira, at the tail end, capped a solid performance at the Stadium of Light and sent Benfica into the last eight of Europe’s premier club competition for the first time since 2006.

Benfica made their intentions clear from the outset, keeping visiting goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev on his toes throughout a lively first half that ended with the hosts 1-0 ahead.

Malafeev, returning for Zenit following a calf injury, had earlier thwarted efforts from Bruno Cesar and Pereira, while Benfica ’keeper Artur did well to scramble away a shot by Shirokov.

However, the Russian was powerless to stop Pereira when the Uruguayan defender fired home from Axel Witsel’s smart backheeler after the Belgian had picked up his own rebound from an alert Malafeev.

Benfica almost pulled ahead moments later when Oscar Cardozo narrowly missed heading home past a flailing Malafeev, the ball going just wide of the post.

Zenit came out fired up for the second half, but despite beginning to show more purpose, the Russians could only watch as efforts by Jardel, with a free header that went wide of the post, then Cardozo were thwarted.

Late chances by Jardel and Oliveira also went begging, while Viktor Fayzulin spurned a chance for a dramatic late equalizer when he sent his shot wide of the post in injury-time.

Moments later, Oliveira sealed the win when, after a swift counter from Cesar, he fought off pressure from Tomaz Hubocan to bundle the ball past Malafeev from close range.

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