Benfica grab crucial victory over AEK Athens in exhilarating encounter
Benfica scored their first goal in the Champions League in over two years as they earned an impressive 3-2 victory in Greece despite having a player sent off just before half time.
Benfica got off to a perfect start, with Seferovic finding the back of the net in the 8th minute with a smart finish after getting on the end of Gedson Fernandes' deflected long-range shot. The advantage was doubled after just a quarter of an hour of the game had passed when Grimaldo got himself onto the end of Pizzi's beautifully whipped cross.
But AEK had their fair share of chances, with Vlachodimos forced into a couple of very good saves to keep Benfica's lead intact.
But Benfica's task was made even harder when Ruben Dias was sent off after receiving his second yellow of the game just before half time, meaning that Benfica's centreback pairing for the second half were Lema and Conti, who only had one full competitive appearance for Benfica between them.
And the defensive vulnerabilities were clearly on show. After some sloppy Andre Almeida defending at right back just 7 minutes after the break, Hult was able to get in behind the Benfica backline before whipping the ball across the face of goal, allowing Klonaridis to tap it home.
And AEK, having been fully dominant in the second half, got the game back on level terms just 10 minutes later, with Andre Almeida again showing some frailties defensively, failing to jump for a cross to the back post, allowing Oikonomou to hear the ball across goal and, like a rough copy of the first goal, Klonaridis was there to tap the ball into the back of the net.
With Benfica looking so disheveled with the man disadvantage, it seemed like a draw was the most the Eagles could hope for, and AEK very nearly scored the third of the night just 20 minutes from the end of the game but for an exceptional one-on-one save by Benfica's Vlachodimos.
However, despite being on the back foot for such a long period of the game, one moment of inspiration earned Benfica a vital three points, with Alfa Semedo sprinting down the middle of the pitch, powering through the AEK midfield before striking it low into the bottom right corner from distance. A remarkable goal to round off a remarkable match.
Benfica had to hold on though with 15 minutes still left on the clock, and with Gedson Fernandes playing almost as an emergency right back to help Andre Almeida and substitute Cervi running tirelessly to sweep up the ball, Benfica just about saw it out.
The win sees Benfica move to third in the table, behind Bayern Munich and Ajax who sit on 4 points apiece after drawing in Germany.