Galatasaray 2-3 Porto; Benfica 1-0 AEK Athens
Benfica were made to work as they took on a resilient AEK Athens side, scoring with just 2 minutes left on the clock to salvage a potentially crucial 3 points, while Porto also secured a fifth Champions League victory, winning agaisnt Galatsaray 3-2.
Benfica had several chances to break the deadlock and pull in front against their Greek opponents, with the corner count increasing within the opening quarter.
However, Benfica’s best chance of the game came early on in the second half, when Seferovic connected with the ball in the box to header a powerful effort onto the top of the bar.
He had another chance just a few minutes later, shooting on the turn with a great deal of accuracy, but matched by the AEK Athens shot-stopper who calmly caught the ball.
Benfica continued to toil but failed to find a way through, clear-cut chances few and far between.
Their hopes of cracking the Greek defence were reignited with just three minutes of normal time remaining though, when Galanopoulos saw red, picking up his second yellow of the game when pulling back on the shirt of Gedson Fernandes on the edge of the box.
Having seen Cervi balloon an effort well over the bar from a similar position earlier on in the match, it was Grimaldo’s turn to have a go from a dead-ball situation, and he curled it beautifully beyond the AEK Athens keeper and into the back of the net, rescuing all three points for Benfica.
Meanwhile, Porto earned victory over Galatasaray in a match that included three penalties and five goals, rounding off an excellent Champions League group stage campaign.
There was then an element of controversy in the tenth minute of the game though, when Galatasaray broke through on goal; Derdiyok’s first effort was parried away by Casillas, but only as far as Galatasaray’s Rodrigues, who fired the ball towards the goal from close range, Diogo Leite’s arm the only thing preventing the ball from hitting the back of the net. But, after deep consultation between all three officials, no punishment was awarded and the game continued. A bit of a let off for Porto, who could have faced a penalty and a man sent off in quick succession.
Porto then took advantage of their good fortune, taking the lead just 5 minutes later when Alex Telles whipped in a beautiful free-kick which was met by the head of Felipe, who bulleted the ball into the back of the net.
Five minutes before the break, Porto were then awarded a penalty, Hernani going down after Mariano carelessly stuck out a leg in the box. It was Marega who stepped up to take, and he converted emphatically, sending the keeper the wrong way before striking the ball into the back of the net with purpose.
However, Porto’s advantage was quickly reduced yet again, when Felipe was adjudged to have taken down Rodrigues in the area - Feghouli ultimately scored from the spot, in off the left post.
It set up a potentially tense second half, and Galatasaray did put Porto under considerable pressure early on, coming close to levelling the game five minutes after the interval. However, it was Porto who next found the net, extending their lead once again, Marega playing a delightful pass onto Hernani, who dribbled into the box and played the ball to Sergio Oliveira, who thumped the ball into the back of the net.
However, Galatasaray continued to put the pressure on, and once again reduced Porto’s advantage in the 65th minute when Rodrigues played the ball across the face of goal after a delightful run off the last defender to Derdiyok, who had the easy task of tapping the ball into the back of the net.
And Galatasaray continued to put the pressure on, looking to get the goal that would edge them closer to the Europa League, and, just a minute after scoring, they ultimately earned yet another penalty. An incredible couple of minutes that was set to destroy Porto’s comfortable advantage. However, Feghouli, stepping up to the penalty spot once again, blasted the ball onto the bar, preserving Porto’s precarious lead.
Galatasaray didn’t give up though and continued to put the pressure on, always looking the more likely to score, but the game ended 3-2 in favour of the Portuguese side.
The biggest cheer of the night, however, came from the home side in the opening couple of minutes of stoppage time - and it wasn’t because of a goal. Instead, the Galatasaray fans heard news from Germany that Schalke had just scored against Lokomotiv Moscow, meaning that they were certain to go through to the Europa League even with defeat.
Never say the Europa League doesn’t mean anything!