ALOSSTO BAYERNTHAT WILLDELIGHT BEN­FICA

The Economic Times - - Sports -

From the rap­tur­ous re­cep­tion they re­ceived on their re­turn home to the com­ments from their play­ers and coach, it was clear that Ben­fica re­garded their 1- 0 Cham­pi­ons League de­feat to Bay­ern Mu­nich as a moral vic­tory. Bayer n had scored 18 goa ls i n t hei r fou r pre­vi­ous home Euro­pean games and when Ar­turo Vi­dal gave them a sec­ond-minute lead in Tues­day's quar­ter-fi­nal first leg at the Al­lianz Arena, the Por­tuguese cham­pi­ons ap­peared des­tined for a long night.

In­stead, the de­fen­sive pair­ing of Vic­tor Lin­de­lof and Jardel suc­ceeded in do­ing what few oth­ers have this sea­son by keep­ing Robert Le­wandowski off the score­sheet, while full backs An­dre Almeida and Eliseu nul­li­fied Franck Ribery and Dou­glas Costa.

Re­garded as the rank out­siders among the eight quar­ter-fi­nal­ists, Ben­fica now be­lieve they have at least a chance of pulling off a mem­o­rable win when they host the Ger­man cham­pi­ons in next week's sec­ond leg. "Bay­ern cer­tainly wanted to win 5-0 but we played su­perbly," mid­fielder Ni­co­las Gai­tan told re­por ters."We'l l be much stronger in our own sta­dium, with the back­ing of our sup­port­ers."

Sev­eral dozen fans waited at Lis­bon air­port to wel­come the team home in the small hours of Wed­nes­day morn­ing and more were camped at the Sta­dium of Light."The team played to a re­ally high stan­dard, they played with con­vic­tion and de­ter­mi­na­tion," coach Rui Vi­to­ria said. "I'm a proud coach af­ter see­ing the team play with such per­son­al­ity."We came here to do our job with­out chang­ing our strat­egy. The tie is open," he added. "Even when they scored in the sec­ond minute, I wasn't wor­ried be­cause I know my team. The team were fan­tas­tic in the way they in­ter­preted the match."

Vi­to­ria's team have shown they are at their most dan­ger­ous when battling against the odds.

They lost their first three meet­ings with neigh­bours Sport­ing this sea­son, yet won the one which re­ally mat­tered last month when a 1-0 suc­cess took the top of the Por­tuguese league at the ex­pense of their ri­vals. They have re­mai n e d there ever since. They a l s o s u r v ive d a tor­rid sec­ond leg away to Zenit St Peters­burg in the last round, fa l li ng behi nd on the night be­fore ral­ly­ing late to com­plete a 3-1 ag­gre­gate win.

Even so, a win over Bay­ern is still a huge task for Ben­fica, who in re­cent years have be­come a spring­board club for play­ers, mostly South Amer­i­cans, hop­ing to move on to one of the big­ger Euro­pean leagues. "The re­spon­si­bil­ity for the sec­ond match will be the same. Bay­ern have beaten a lot of teams away from home, but I can guar­an­tee we will be in con­tention un­til the end," Vi­to­ria added.

Re­garded as the rank out­siders among, Ben­fica now be­lieve they have at least a chance of pulling off a mem­o­rable win

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