Good evening and welcome to the live commentary of the Champions League
clash between Benfica
and Bayer Leverkusen
This is a big match for Leverkusen this evening as they can secure their place as Group C winners, having already qualified for the knockout stage of the competition. Roger Schmidt
's side have notched three wins from their five games so far, and will be looking to turn that into four at the Estadio da Luz this evening.
Benfica can't qualify for the the last 16 of the competition as they sit bottom of Group C with four points from their five matches. Matters are even worse for Jorge Jesus
's side as his team can't even qualify for the Europa League as a result of their struggles in the Champions League this season.
Schmidt has admitted Leverkusen will face a tough task this evening, despite Benfica's struggles in the Champions League this season.
He told reporters: "They are a club steeped in tradition and are often involved in European club competitions. Benfica are not going to want to go out without a fight. I expect them to come at us without any fear."
BENFICA: Artur, Lisandro Lopez, Andre Almeida, Cesar, Benito, Cristante, Derley, Lima, John, Pizzi, Tiago
SUBS: Paulo Lopes, Sílvio, Jardel, Joao Teixeira, Nélson Oliveira, Talisca, Goncalo Guedes
LEVERKUSEN: Leno, Spahic, Hilbert, Boenisch, Toprak, Rolfes, Calhanoglu, Castro, Bellarabi, Drmic, Kruse
SUBS: Kresic, Jedvaj, Wendell, Yurchenko, Son, Kiessling, Brandt
has made several changes to his side from their win over Belenenses in the Primeira Liga on Saturday. Only Andre Almeida retains his place from the victory and he captains the side this evening, while Ola John, Pizzi and Lima
lead a three-man attack. There is no place in the team for Nicolas Gaitan, Luisao and Maxi Pereira in the starting lineup ahead of their match against Porto at the weekend.
Leverkusen have also made several changes this evening as Lars Bender and Stefan Kiessling miss out on selection. Bender misses out due to an injury, which he sustained his side's defeat to Bayern Munich on Saturday. Robbie Kruse and Simon Rolfes come into the side along with Sebastian Boenisch and Roberto Hilbert. Josip Drmic and Kruse will lead the line for Schmidt's side at the Estadio da Luz this evening.
The German side ran out 3-1 victors in the reverse fixtures in September as goals from Stefan Kiessling, Heung-Min Son and Hakan Calhanoglu fired them to the three points in a convincing win. Leverkusen's two defeats in the group stage have both come at the hands of Monaco as they fell to a 1-0 loss in their last outing, so they will be determined to sign off win a victory.
Benfica lost to Zenit St Petersburg in their last outing in the competition in a narrow 1-0 defeat. However, their form in the Premeira Liga has been outstanding as they have dropped just five points this season. They hold a three-point lead over second-place Porto, so you can see why Jesus decided to rest some of his key players this evening.
Schmidt has revealed that Leverkusen are determined to finish their group campaign on a high note. The German side have been the most impressive side in Group C, and can secure a draw against a runner-up with a draw or victory tonight, pending the result of the other game in the group between
Monaco and Zenit.
"We've deserved to finish top and it would be a nice accolade for the team," Schmidt told reporters.
Benfica's problem in the competition has been a lack of goals as they have scored just twice in their five matches. It will be interesting to see how their alternative options up front fare this evening. Their struggles have been surprising as they have scored 28 goals in their 12 league matches this season in Portugal, the best in the Premeira Liga.
Leverkusen are going through their final warm-ups at the Estadio da Luz.
Leverkusen's top scorers in the Champions League Kiessling and Heung-Min Son are both on the bench this evening, so goals could be at a premium at the Estadio da Luz. Hopefully that won't be the case.
The players are making their way out onto the pitch and we should be underway shortly. The Estadio da Luz is bare this evening as there are reds seats aplenty on view.
KICKOFF! We're underway in this Champions League clash.
Slow start to the game as both sides enjoy a bit of possession. The atmosphere is very flat inside the ground, and the early tempo of the game has matched the environment.
Hilbert picks up the ball down the right for the visitors and surges into the penalty area. He fires a low cross into the box, but no Leverkusen reacts to the ball inside the six-yard box and Artur is able to gather under no pressure. Good run from the full back.
Rolfes latches onto to a throw in down the left and he manages to cut the ball back inside the box where Drmic is waiting, but Lopez reads the danger well and cuts out the cross before it can reach the striker.
Our first shot of the evening and it's one of the more dismal efforts you'll see as Calhanoglu fires a half-volley at goal from distance, which trickles well wide of the post. The ball may have taken a deflection, but it was still a poor attempt from the Turkish midfielder.
OFF THE BAR! Lima has entered the contest for miss of the season as he somehow fails to hit the back of the net from six yards with the goal gaping. Ola John had done brilliantly down the left to turn his man inside and out and fire the ball across the face of goal. Leno tipped the ball into the path of Lima, who was left with a simple chance but he fired his effort onto the bar and over. What a sitter!
The home side are starting to up the ante in the match following Lima's miss as Benito is fouled down the left. The free kick from Cristante is put into a decent area, but Leno bails out his defence as he comes out to punch the ball clear with a powerful fist away.
Benfica work the ball well through their midfield again and Pizzi manages to find John unmarked on the edge of the box. The winger takes a touch to get the ball out of his feet to drive a left-footed shot at goal, but Hilbert reacts to make a good block.
Leverkusen win a decent chance to threaten the home side's net as Drmic is brought down by Lopez. Calhanoglu stands over the ball from 25 yards.
Calhanoglu gets the ball over the wall, but his strike is too powerful as his effort sails well over the bar. A missed chance for the German side there.
A ball over the top of the Benfica defence causes a miscommunication between Cesar and Artur as the keeper comes hurrying off his line. However, Kruse nearly reaches the ball before the defender, who is forced to act quickly to put the ball behind.
Calhanoglu lifts the corner into the box and Rolfes manages to leap highest in the area to head the ball at goal, but his effort is tame and straight at Artur, who makes a comfortable save.
CHANCE! Benfica come close again and it's that man Lima with the attempt as his shot is deflected just wide of the post after the ball fell kindly to him at the back post from a corner. Another great opportunity spurned for the home side, and you can see why they have struggled to score goals in the competition this season.
Good tracking back from Pizzi as he follows Rolfes all the way into his own box and does well to win the ball from the midfielder, with a shoulder-to-shoulder challenge, but he can't stop the ball rolling out of play to prevent the corner.
The corner is cleared by the Benfica, but Bellarabi manages to gather the loose ball from 35 yards and he decides to take on a shot. His effort is low and hard, but Cesar is on hand to read the danger and make the block to clear once more.
CHANCE! Kruse does well down the left for the visitors as he beats Cesar and dinks the ball over Artur from a tight angle. However, his cross is just too high for Castro to take advantage of the empty net at the back post.
YELLOW CARD! Omer Toprak goes into the book for tugging the shirt of Derley right under the referee's nose.
Benfica threaten as Tiago collects the ball down the right and he hits a vicious cross low into the six-yard box, but Spahic reads the danger well and clears before Lima can pounce on the quality delivery.
YELLOW CARD! Cristante is booked for a poor challenge on Calhanoglu.
Tiago receives the ball in plenty of space to attack down the right and he drives towards the box. The forward lacks support and is forced to hold the ball on the edge of the area, as Lima takes his time to move forward. However, the attack comes to a grinding halt as Spahic wins the ball from the forward with a good tackle.
CHANCE! Lima spurns another opportunity to hand his side the lead as John plays him through on goal down the left. The striker manages to take control of the ball and drill a left-footed strike at goal, but his effort sails past the post.
CHANCE! Benfica find more space on the edge of the area, and Tiago decides to try his luck from distance by firing an effort towards the bottom corner. His strike troubles Leno who gets down quickly to his right, but goes inches past the post.
SHOT! Leverkusen have their first meaningful effort at goal just before the break as Drmic strikes from the edge of the area, but his shot is tame and straight at Artur.
HALF-TIME: Benfica 0-0 Leverkusen
It's goalless at the break at the Estadio da Luz, but it shouldn't be as Lima has had several chances to fire the home side in front. None better than the one he spurned in the 11th minute of the game when he somehow hit the bar from six yards with the goal gaping. Jorge Jesus will be pleased with what he has seen from his team, apart from Lima's contribution in the first half.
Leverkusen have been poor this evening as they have failed to muster anything going forward, while they have been resolute enough at the back bar the two chances Lima had to open the scoring. Schmidt will want to see a lot more from his side in the second half, especially in the midfield where his team have been very pedestrian in the opening 45 minutes.
UPDATE! It is also goalless in the other Group C game between Monaco and Zenit, so if the results stay the same Leverkusen will top the group. Meanwhile, Arsenal are leading Galatasaray 3-0 at the break, while Liverpool trail Basel 1-0 at Anfield.
The players have emerged for the start of the second half to we should be back underway shortly.
RESTART! We're back underway at the Estadio da Luz.
A fast start from the visitors as they try to attack through the middle directly from the kickoff. Benfica manage to stop the threat up the middle just in time, but the ball is played out wide to Bellarabi, and his cross travels across the face of goal and out for a goal kick. Better intent from the German side.
SUBSTITUTION: There was one change at the break as Julian Brandt replaced Kruse.
Bellarbi threatens down the right again for the visitors as he manages to beat his man and cut the ball back towards the penalty spot, but no player in a black shirt is there to pounce for the ball when it lands in the space and Benfica clear the danger.
Leverkusen work the ball well across the midfield and Calhanoglu spreads the ball towards Drmic on the left. The striker needs a good touch to open a shooting chance, but he fails to do so and spurns the opportunity as Almedia is able to shepherd the ball away from him in the box.
The German side continue their good start to the half as Calhanoglu finds space to drive an effort at goal from just outside the box, but Artur is on hand to make the comfortable stop. Good pressing from the visitors is creating opportunities in the final third, and it seems Schmidt has had a word with them at the break.
Another scramble in the box as Brandt manages to whip a low cross into the area from the left. Drmic takes a stab at the ball, but his effort is blocked by Lopez, who clears the danger and the home side live to fight another day.
SHOT! More good work from the German side as they press deep in the final third of the pitch. The ball is played to the flank where Hilbert decides to fire a cross-come-shot towards the bottom corner, but his effort goes inches past the post, with no teammate gambling to attack the ball.
CHANCE! Great pressing from Hilbert almost hands his side the lead as continues to close the ball down all the way downfield and puts Cesar under pressure on his clearance. The ball deflects off the defender and bounces slowly towards the goal, but it bounces just the wrong side of the post for the visitors.
SUBSTITUTION: Talisca replaces Lima up front for Benfica.
Rolfes weaves his way into the area for the visitors, but he takes too many touches before he offloads the ball as he and his teammates were not on the same wavelength and it allows Cesar to nip in and clear the danger.
UPDATE: Monaco have taken the lead in the other Group C game this evening against Zenit thanks to a strike from Aymen Abdennour.
Almost a mirror image of the incident at the other end of the pitch as John weaves his way through a couple of tackles, but takes too long to make his decision over his next move. His eventual cross into the box from a tight angle is poor as he slams the ball into the side netting.
SUBSTITUTION: Heung-Min Son replaces Drmic for the visitors.
Both sides are starting to flag a little bit, and it is affecting the quality of the game as neither side can seem to control possession for more than 30 seconds.
Leverkusen waste a promising opening as Calhanoglu raids forward into the box and tries to pick out the run of Heung-Min Son down the left inside channel, but he overhits his pass and the ball goes out for a goal kick.
Talisca has a problem for the home side as he looks to be going off after an aerial tussle with Spahic. The medical staff are treating him on the pitch for a collision that seemed so innocuous.
Talisca is not going off after all as he comes back onto the pitch.
The tempo of the game has dropped off significantly in the last few minutes. Neither side has been able to get a grip on the ball for the past 15 minutes and it has led to some really sloppy play, especially in the final third of the pitch. Both managers will be disappointed by the level of play they have seen this evening.
SUBSTITUTION: Kiessling comes on for Rolfes for Leverkusen.
CHANCE! Benfica do manage to string two passes together in the final third as John lays the ball into the path of Talisca, who shoots from distance, but his effort is well saved by Leno.
CHANCE! Bellarbi has his side's best chance of the half as he blasts an effort at goal from the left flank, which surprises Artur, but the keeper shows excellent reactions skills to palm the away from the net.
CHANCES! Tiago has an excellent chance on the break as he races into the box, but just as he strikes the ball Spahic gets back at the forward to block the shot and force a corner. From the resulting corner, Pizzi's delivery is knocked into the six-yard box for the unmarked Cesar, but he can only guide his header over the bar. Another staggering miss from the home side.
RED CARD! Toprak sees red for the visitors for a reckless challenge on Joao Teixeira to pick up his second booking of the game. He will now be suspended for the first match of the knockout stage.
CHANCE! Artur makes a great save to deny Leverkusen a winner as he palms Boenisch's cross away from goal as it looked destined for the bottom corner after Kiessling decided to leave the ball to continue on its course from close range. The Benfica defence were quickly on hand to clear the danger from the rebound.
FULL-TIME: Benfica 0-0 Bayer Leverkusen
Disaster for Bayer Leverkusen as they finish second in the group as Monaco held out to defeat Zenit 2-0 in the other match in Group C. It means that the Bundesliga side will face the proposition of a much tougher opponent in the knockout stage of the competition as a result of their failure to beat Benfica.
Benfica should have signed off their campaign with a victory but Lima missed one golden opportunity with an open goal in the 11th minute, and another good one shortly after in the first half. The Portuguese side also had chances in the second half, but both sides were short on quality in the final third at the Estadio da Luz.
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