This was branded as a must win game for both sides as they both looked for their first points of the Champions League group stage, after two disappointing defeats in match day one. Benfica went into the game with the better form, since their 2-0 loss to Zenit they’ve won both their league games. Leverkusen on the other hand have had mixed results, one win, one draw and one loss.
Leverkusen didn’t waste anytime in putting Benfica on the back foot, they were putting their visitors under a lot of pressure and they should’ve taken the lead when Karim Bellarabi played in Son with a back heel and the South Korean fired his shot straight at Júlio César, Stefan Kießling was a better option across goal and wasn’t happy with his team mate.
Fifteen minutes in Leverkusen came very close to taking the lead, Heung-Min Son pulled the ball back to Hakan Calhanoglu and his shot was blocked, this allowed Lars Bender to have a go, but unfortunately his effort deflected off a defender before striking the post.
In the 25th minute the home side took a much deserved lead when Calhanoglu played in Son, his effort on the edge of the area was saved by César and not for the first time the keeper spilled the ball and Kießling was there to pounce and convert the gift.
The front four of Calhanoglu, Bellarabi, Kießling and Son continued to cause plenty of problems for Benfica and it wasn’t long till they had a second. Nine minutes after taking the lead a long ball forward from Ömer Toprak picked out Bellarabi, who played a lovely one-two with Bender before picking out Son, the South Korean finishing well to give Leverkusen a comfortable lead.
Benfica weren’t able to provide much threat going forward, Leverkusen’s defence were following in the footsteps of the attacking players and didn’t put a foot wrong, leaving Bernd Leno with barely anything to do.
The last chance of the half saw a ball forward brilliantly flicked on by Kießling and Son raced down the line before cutting inside and curling an effort wide.
Half Time: Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 Benfica.
Despite some improvement from the visitors, the hosts were still able to dominate the game and they should’ve grabbed a third goal when Bellarabi skipped past a defender. His ball across goal to the unmarked Calhanoglu saw the ball bobble up and Calhanoglu put the chance wide from a couple of yards out.
Just past the hour mark Benfica managed to get their first shot on target and it ended up in the back of the net. Substitute Maximiliano Pereira gave the ball to an open Eduardo Salvio, who did very well to cut in and fire his chance into the bottom corner.
This was the chance for Benfica to get more into the game and comeback, however it wasn’t to be as 45 seconds later Kießling was brought down in the box by Jardel, this gave Calhanoglu the chance to make up for his earlier miss and he did that comfortably to make it 3-1.
Leverkusen looked very comfortable after their third and despite having plenty of chances they weren’t able to take them. Benfica finished the game strongly, but as they did all game they failed to create chances and challenge Leno.
Full Time: Bayer Leverkusen 3-1 Benfica.
An almost faultless performance by Leverkusen and they never looked like losing. The dominating display has given them a good chance to qualify, however there’s still plenty of work to be done. Benfica have plenty of work ahead of them if their to qualify for the next round.
Article for VAVEL.