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Benfica breezes through to pile pressure on Parker

Updated: 2023-03-09 09:47
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Goncalo Ramos celebrates scoring Benfica's second goal during Tuesday's Champions League victory over Club Brugge in Lisbon, Portugal. Benfica won 5-1 on the night and 7-1 on aggregate. AP

LISBON, Portugal — Benfica made it look easy again.

The Portuguese team continued its good run with a comfortable 5-1 win over Club Brugge on Tuesday to seal its spot in the quarterfinals of the Champions League for the second straight season.

Benfica advanced 7-1 on aggregate following its 2-0 win in the first leg in Belgium.

Rafa Silva, Joao Mario and David Neres scored a goal each, and Goncalo Ramos found the net twice for Benfica, which hadn't made it to the last eight in consecutive seasons in more than five decades. It was eliminated by eventual runner-up Liverpool last year.

"The team has been working hard and things have been going well for us," Silva said.

Brugge, making its debut in the knockout stage of the Champions League, plunged deeper into crisis under English coach Scott Parker. The team has won only twice in 12 matches since the former Fulham boss took over in December.

Parker admitted his job was in jeopardy after the "humbling defeat".

"For me it's been challenging, but the players have been brilliant and wanting to do everything they can to turn this around," he said. "I understand people now doubt me, I'm not naive enough to not think that. All I can say is that I'm trying to turn this around and create a team that will start winning again."

Asked if he would stay in charge following the loss, Parker said: "You are asking the wrong person."

The Belgian champion was one of the surprises of the group stage, finishing second to Porto and ahead of Bayer Leverkusen and Atletico Madrid.

"The result hits us hard," Brugge midfielder Hans Vanaken said. "We tried to come here to do something and show something. I am emotional because we played a great campaign and a historic quarterfinal. Then you don't want to go out like that."

Benfica was another surprise after finishing first in a group that included Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus. It entered the knockout stage in great form, enjoying a 12-game unbeaten run in all competitions with 10 wins in those matches. It has lost only once in 42 matches this season and is unbeaten in its 19 home games.

Benfica was in control from the start at the Stadium of Light, with Silva opening the scoring from inside the area in the 38th minute. Ramos added to the lead with close-range goals in first-half stoppage time and early after halftime, becoming the youngest Portuguese to score twice in a match in the knockout stage. Mario scored the fourth by converting a 71st-minute penalty, and David Neres completed the scoring for the host from inside the box in the 77th.

Benfica now has the best attack in the Champions League this season with 23 goals, one more than Napoli and two more than defending champion Real Madrid.

Bjorn Meijer scored Brugge's lone goal with a neat first-time finish into the top corner in the 87th. It was the team's first goal after four scoreless matches in the Champions League. The 19-year-old Meijer became the youngest player to create four chances in a Champions League knockout game since Jadon Sancho for Borussia Dortmund in 2019.

Mario became the first player to score in five consecutive appearances in the competition for Benfica since the great Eusebio in a run from 1963-64. He also became the first player to score five penalties — excluding shootouts — in a single Champions League campaign.

Mario had already found the net with a backheel touch two minutes into the match but the goal was disallowed for an offside by Ramos in the buildup.

The Portuguese club has not failed to scored in its last 17 European matches, and it has scored two or more goals in 11 of its last 13 games in Europe.

Benfica, twice a European champion in the early 1960s, had last made it to the last eight in consecutive seasons in 1968 and 1969. It last advanced past the quarterfinals in 1990, when it eventually lost the final to AC Milan.


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