Twenty minutes of nightmare… This is all it took for Zenit to crush our winning aspirations for the night. They set off the tone by an impressive offensive football as we tried to live through the offensive charge. Stunned by an early Hulk goal (5′), through an assist from Shatov, Benfica remained disorientated for most of the first half. To make matters worse, Artur’s foul on Danny outside the box left Moen with no option but to show the red (18th minute). Jorge Jesus opted to substitute Talisca for an unprepared Paulo Lopes to save Hulk’s subsequent free kick. Unfortunately, following the conceded corner, former Benfica player, Axel Witsel, headed the ball in the net thanks to a cross from Danny. Twenty-one minutes, two goals for Zenit. This was going to be a long night… The choice was simple: either suffer a heavy defeat on our own soil or get our act together and salvage what was still possible.
Ironically, we seemed to continue with the trend of playing better after being reduced to 10 men. The first half brought an end to our ordeal: from the 23rd minute, Zenit fired three shots (all saved) while Benfica tried to break through to the last third (a few corners and one blocked shot from Gaitan). The second half was definitely a lot more levelled out, with Benfica pressing and obliging Zenit players to commit more fouls in the first ten minutes. Nine attempts from the Encarnados (58th, 64th, 65th, 68th, 69th, 71st, 75th, 82nd, 90+), all blocked or saved, are there to show the effort and the commitment of the team to turn the result around. Meanwhile, Zenit remained dangerous in all their game construction and Hulk, Rondon and Witsel all created great occasions for the Russian side. Our midfield was clearly no match to the quality offered by Shatov, Witsel, Danny and Javi Garcia.
|SHOTS||SHOTS ON TARGET||SHOTS OFF TARGET||BLOCKED|
|PASSES||LONG||SHORT||CHANCE CREATED||ATTACKING THIRD||MIDDLE THIRD||DEFENSIVE THIRD|
|ATTACK||CROSSES||CORNERS||TAKE ONS||OFFSIDE PASSES|
BENFICA x MOREIRENSE
Sunday 21st of September at 17:00 GMT will see Benfica taking on Moreirense at the Estadio da Luz. Undefeated in the Liga, we should be able to get a good result from this game and leave with the three points which could propel us to the first spot of the table (scoring many goals would help to get at the top).
So far, Moreirense has drawn two games (against Braga and Rio Ave), won one (against Nacional) and lost another one (against Porto). Their offensive line is weak but their defense could pose complications, especially if they decide to park the bus. They have probably seen the consequences of playing an open game against us, with the example of Setubal and decide to exploit our current difficulties to find the net by playing an ultra defensive game, with spurts of counter attacks.
On Benfica side, the news broke again that Julio Cesar will be making his debuts. I really hope that is the case this time. I think it would be amazingly foolish from JJ to continue believing in Artur when Artur doesn’t even believe in himself anymore. Now that the European Competitions have started, it would also be wise to give minutes to unused players and build up better bench options. We have a rather limited team in the defense and attack sections and need to create a team who will work well together, including with the subs.
I believe that JJ will be keeping the usual back 4 (although he should get Lisandro Lopez as central back), and play a midfield similar to the one he lined up against Setubal. Jonas should help us create good movement up front and may just be what Lima needs to break his curse. It would also allow Talisca to play in his preferred position so we can get the best out of him (speed, good on duels and feeding the ball to the strikers).
My bet? A 2-0 win. VIVA O BENFICA!!