Thursday 19 April 2018

Benfica pounce for late winner

Nicolas Gaitan
Nicolas Gaitan

Jonas struck with a stoppage-time header to end 90 minutes of frustration for Benfica as they beat an ultra-cautious Zenit St Petersburg 1-0 at home in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie last night.

Nicolas Gaitan floated a free kick into the area and the Brazilian rose to break the deadlock. Zenit defender Domenico Criscito had been sent off for a second yellow card for the foul which led to the free kick. The first half had been an unsightly slog with 16 fouls, seven offsides and four bookings.

Benfica came to life in the second half but still struggled to create chances against a tightly-packed, well-drilled Zenit, who were playing their first competitive match since December 9. Jonas had the best effort of the first half when the Benfica forward unleashed a shot from the edge of the area but Zenit's Nicolas Lombaerts just got his head to the ball and his touch forced it wide of the post.

The hosts nearly went ahead in the 69th minute when Gaitan skipped past a defender, but saw his shot stopped by Yuri Lodygin.

Benfica continued to dominate and Gaitan was foiled again by Lodygin before his team-mate Jardel turned the ball wide after Victor Lindelof headed down Renato Sanches's cross.

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