Benfica defeated Club Brugge 2-0 to advance to the quarterfinals of the Champions League thanks to goals from Joao Mario and David Neres.
The Jupiler Pro League has not been kind to Club Brugge; they are 20 points off the top spot; nonetheless, the Belgian team was revved up for the first leg of their last-16 match against the Portuguese behemoths on Wednesday. For the home team, Noa Lang and Tajon Buchanan were threatening, but Benfica later in the first half enjoyed a strong run. Early in the second session, the Eagles were able to regain their momentum, and six minutes after the game’s beginning, Joao Mario’s penalty gave them the lead. Club Brugge was able to get forward and around the box, but they were unable to create clear chances, bring themselves level, or make a substitution. In the 88th minute, David Neres scored to seal the victory by taking advantage of a mistake by the opposing defense and slipping the ball past Simon Mignolet. In the final few seconds of the game, the Brazilian thought he had scored another goal but was called offside.
THE MVP: Despite being on the losing team, Noa Lang was a persistent pain in Benfica’s side the whole time. Although starting this match without a center-forward was somewhat contentious, the Netherlands international‘s capacity to give Club Brugge more bodies in deeper areas, pick up the ball, and drive at the opposition’s defense provided the home club more control and a genuine offensive threat. The former Ajax player was everywhere, always attempting to outwit opponents, picking up passes, and sprinting back to recover lost possessions. The home team’s star player, by far, put forth an excellent showing. In a close game, Benfica only had one spectacular effort to boast about as they took the lead thanks to a penalty.
It was expected that it would take a costly blunder from one player in a close game between two evenly matched teams to give the opponent the chance to score the game-winning goal. The unfortunate foul on Goncalo Ramos by Club Brugge defender Jack Hendry, which led to Benfica taking the lead from the penalty spot, was inadvertently committed by Jack Hendry. The Scotsman‘s error proved to be a game-changing one, as the Belgian hosts were unable to rally.
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