Benfica exited the Champions League at the round of 16 stage on Wednesday night, with a 4-0 defeat to Borussia Dortmund at the Westfalenstadion. The home side took just four minutes to cancel out the Eagles' first leg advantage, as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang rose to meet Christian Pulisic's flick-on from an Ousmane Dembélé corner. After a nervy opening, Benfica held their own for the remainder of the first half, and Dembélé was incredibly lucky to avoid a second yellow card for a late challenge on Eliseu.
As in the first leg, Benfica started the second half brightly. Franco Cervi had a golden opportunity to score the crucial away goal in the 47th minute, but his shot was charged down by Lukasz Piszczek. Dortmund then killed the contest with a quickfire double around the hour-mark; Pulisic chipped the onrushing Ederson from a Piszczek through-ball, before Aubameyang converted Marcel Schmelzer's sumptuous first-time cross. Aubameyang completed his hat-trick with another close-range effort in the dying minutes, although the Gabonese striker was clearly in an offside position.
Shortly after the final whistle, Rui Vitória shared his thoughts on the game's principal incidents:
"We didn't start as we would have liked, but after the first 10 to 15 minutes we were the team that wanted to have the ball and trouble the Dortmund team, who didn't return to create much danger. Later, we started the second half very well, we had a great chance through [Franco] Cervi, only to concede two goals in two minutes."
"We made errors, but great credit also goes to Dortmund, who took away some of our belief. (My) players scrapped and it was an inglorious result."
"They are moments that at this level, you pay for dearly."
Despite the bruising defeat, Vitória insisted that his players had nothing to be ashamed of, and that they still have plenty to play for this season.
"Do Arsenal not have quality? Napoli? Paris Saint-Germain? Tomorrow we return to work to prepare for Monday, so we can return to [the Champions League] next year and represent Portuguese football."
Nélson Semedo showed his usual energy and endeavour on the right-hand side, but allowed Aubameyang to evade him at the back post for Dortmund’s early opener. The Portuguese fullback had the following to say at full-time:
"We were quickly losing but we knew (how to) react. We had opportunities and didn't convert. (Then) we conceded two sudden goals and could not come back. But we are very proud of what we did."
Like his coach, Semedo was adamant that there would be no 'hangover' after the team's heavy loss.
"We will not see any mental consequences of this defeat. This doesn't change (our) objectives at all, (or) what we want from the rest of the season."
Bayern Munich were rumoured to be scouting Semedo at the Westfalenstadion, but the 23-year old played down talk of a move at the end of the match.
"I'm very happy playing at Benfica, at the Estádio da Luz, with our supporters that were here in great numbers... they are fantastic! I intend to stay at Benfica for many years."
Pizzi took his place in an unfamiliar looking midfield on Wednesday night, playing just ahead of a defensive double-pivot of Andreas Samaris and André Almeida. The 27-year old praised his teammates' efforts, while admitting that Dortmund had simply been the better side.
"The goal conceded at the the start was not in our plans, but we showed a great reaction. This is football. We faced a great team, with great players."
"One has to highlight our attitude from the first minute, but the truth is that we had an excellent team in front of us."
"We are very proud for having made it here. Obviously we wanted to go through, for our supporters that are always with the team. But we leave here with our heads held high. This is the Champions League, where the best (teams) compete."
Benfica return to action at the Estádio da Luz on Monday evening, when they host Belenenses in the Liga NOS. The Encarnados remain one point ahead of Porto with ten matches remaining, and Pizzi confirmed that a fourth consecutive league title is now the team's top priority.
"Starting from tomorrow, we will already be thinking about the Portuguese championship, and our objective is to be Tetracampeões!"