Benfica claimed a famous victory at the Vicente Calderón tonight, through a combination of desperate defending and clinical counter-attacking. The 2,500 travelling fans were sent home happy after witnessing Benfica’s first competitive win over Spanish opposition since 1982.
The Madrid giants bossed the first half, as they threatened to overwhelm Benfica with wave after wave of attack. The deadlock was broken after 23 minutes, when Ángel Correa struck from Antoine Griezmann’s cushioned lay-off.
A flurry of last-ditch interceptions and spurned opportunities restricted the home side to a solitary goal, and Atlético were made to pay for their profligacy in the 36th minute. The scores were levelled by Nico Gaitán, as ever the game-changer for Benfica, who met Nélson Semedo’s cross with a sweetly-struck half volley that flew past ex-Benfica keeper Jan Oblak.
Benfica scored early in a feisty and fractious second half, with Gonçalo Guedes tucking home from an acute angle after Gaitán’s run and cross. Atlético piled forward in search of an equaliser, but were denied by a string of saves by Júlio César. The Brazilian keeper showed great reflexes to foil Jackson Martínez and Correa with a stunning double-stop.
Benfica saw out the last 20 minutes in relative comfort, as a frustrated Atlético side ran out of ideas, and Benfica reinforced their midfield with the introductions of Pizzi of Fejsa.
It was a disappointing night for Atlético’s ex-Porto contingent, with Jackson Martínez guilty of a number of missed opportunities in the first half. Óliver Torres also had a night to forget, collecting a yellow card before being substituted early in the second half.
Benfica will fancy their chances of progressing to the knockout stages of the competition, with both Galatasaray and FC Astana claiming just a point from their opening two games.