Benfica earn precious 1-0 win over Fenerbahce in first leg of their Champions League tie
Benfica eventually came away with a potentially crucial 1-0 victory over Turkish side Fenerbahce having dominated the match throughout, giving them a useful advantage to take to Istanbul next week.
Having started brightly, things looked very promising for Benfica, who were taking the game to their opponents immediately. However, despite seeing vast amounts of the ball, for all their possession they failed to create any real goal-scoring opportunities in the opening quarter of the match.
Indeed, it was Fenerbahce who forced Benfica's goalkeeper into producing the first save of the night, with a strike straight at Vlachodimos who safely clutched the ball to his chest.
Gedson Fernandes, who was making his competitive debut for Benfica's senior side, looked comfortable on the ball and rarely looked out of place despite his teenage years and clear lack of experience, the continental stage seemingly not fazing him, although his long-range shot that flew high and wide over the bar just before the half hour mark was one to forget.
Cervi's cross which nearly found the back of the net on the 32nd minute was the first to really test Fenerbahce goalkeeper Volkan, while Salvio then dragged his shot wide just a matter of seconds later.
Both Cervi and Salvio remained lively in the first half, while Spanish left back Grimaldo looked very good going forward and in defence, assisting with the transitions as the game changed phase. Ultimately, however, Benfica struggled to get striker Facundo Ferreyra, their summer signing, sufficiently into the game in the first half. The one time they did manage to get him in behind the defence - in the final minute of the half - his tame shot was easily saved by Volkan in the Fenerbahce goal.
There were positives for Benfica though; with good pressure when off the ball to hassle the opponents added to a clear degree of confidence on the ball, Benfica were able to both win the ball back quickly and high up the pitch with regularity, while also rarely relinquishing possession. The intensity simply had to be risen for the second half to get the ball up the pitch more quickly, as Benfica, for all their dominance over their Turkish opponents, were not creating enough opportunities.
Benfica came out in the second half similarly on top, not much change in intensity but a level above Fenerbahce, and Salvio, by now one of Bnefica's longest serving players, was the man to test the Fenerbahce goalkeeper first, with a sweet strike on the 51st minute. The Turkish goalkeeper then went down with minimal contact just a couple of minutes later to earn a free-kick and halt a dangerous Benfica attack, much to the disappointment of the home fans.
Benfica continued to press though, forcing Fenerbahce into sloppy passes and mistakes, creating a few half chances but still unable to get Ferreyra suitably involved, who was eventually substituted just beyond the hour mark.
Benfica's hardwork eventually paid off, after Salvio, who had worked so hard down the right wing all game, found Cervi in the box, who turned cleverly under pressure before firing a low shot past the out-stretched hand of Volkan, giving Benfica a precious advantage to take to Turkey next week.
There were also a couple of decent chances to double the advantage with just seven minutes left on the clock, but Catillo's low, well-placed shots were met by the hands of Volkan, not once but twice, in the space of a minute. Almeida's improvised backwards header deep into the game was also very close to grabbing Benfica a second, but it drifted just beyond the post.
While the Benfica fans and players alike may feel the performance deserved a larger scale of victory, coming away with victory was the most important thing, while conceding no away goal can also be considered a great success. Benfica will therefore be feeling very confident as they go into the away leg next week, having looked superior to their Turkish opposition for the vast majority of the match and knowing that the cushion of the away goal rule is still on their side.
Benfica XI: Vlachodimos; André Almeida, Ruben Dias, Jardel, Grimaldo; Fejsa, Gedson, Pizzi; Salvio, Cervi, Ferreyra.