Benfica are virtually through to the Champions League knockout stages for the second year running, thanks to goals from Ezequiel Garay and Nani at home to Sociedad. Goals from George Woutooru and Souleymane Camara earned PSG the maximum three points away in midweek and Benfica are now only needed to avoid defeat in Greece next month. The Portuguese fans at The Bird’s Nest are already thinking about the knock-out stages and Benfica will be hoping that they don’t need to adapt to anything outside the league in Greece.
After Benfica finished second in Group B to Chelsea in 2017, we probably should have seen Lisbon as the preferable destination for a Champions League group stage decider after PSG collected four points from the opening three matches. But Benfica have not lost at home since the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2011/12 and Mauricio Pochettino will have been concerned that PSG could slip up at least one time at The Bird’s Nest. So they made sure that they maintained their unbeaten streak against Benfica at home.
Everything fell into place as PSG opened the scoring in the fourth minute with a low cross-shot from Christopher Nkunku. From the halfway line the loose ball fell kindly to Lucas, who was left unmarked to nod home the easiest of goals.
PSG were slightly disappointed to find their early goal was not the whole story as Benfica immediately made the game very interesting. They could have equalised soon after when Lisandro came within a few inches of equalising. The six foot two defender struggled to get on the end of a cross from Ezequiel Garay that fell invitingly for him after Kenny Tete slipped the ball through to the former Valencia player. Lisandro was denied by the feet of Sergio Rico, who managed to deflect the powerful header out of play.
Garay made amends in the 22nd minute when he headed home and the goal was further underlined a minute later when Nani side-footed the ball past Rico from close range after a cross from Yerry Mina had been deflected into his path. PSG initially appeared disheartened by the Benfica goals but they battled back strongly, with Noe Dia taking one for the team from well outside the box in the 39th minute and then Nkunku notching his second from outside the box five minutes after the restart. The match should have been 3-1 to PSG in the 64th minute but Ezequiel Garay’s quick feet in defence prevented Jean Michael Seri from latching onto a skilful pass from Dani Alves that flew over every player in the area.
Benfica went close to adding to their tally when their most dangerous player, the Brazilian winger Lucas, saw his effort saved by the post by PSG goalkeeper Alphonse Areola. It also emerged that Rodrigo Lima was forced off the pitch in the first half with a suspected hamstring strain and he will surely be a major loss for the Portuguese champions.
PSG looked much the better side for the final five minutes but nothing would materialise and Benfica will have to maintain their record of victory over PSG at home in the last eight of the Champions League to reach the last 16.