european competitions - 2005/06



Benfica underachieved and were outclassed by Barcelona at the Nou Camp Wednesday, saying goodbye to the Champions League. The Águias cannot have any real qualms about going out of the competition after being well beaten on the night. Barcelona did not produce any football that was out of this world, but they did dominate, and Benfica seemed nervous from the off. In fact, during the first half, Valdés in the Barça goal hardly touched the ball, and Benfica were decidedly ramshcakle, allowing Barcelona to tke the lead on 19 minutes: Beto miskicked in midfield, the ball was fed to Etoó o the right, and his low cut-back was met by Ronaldinho,who wrongfooted his direct marker Ricardo Rocha to clip the ball calmly home.

Benfica were slightly better in the second half but still miles away from the classic perfomances this season against Manchester United and Liverpool. Simão came close with a shot after Miccoli had found him superbly, and sub Karagounis came close with a drive, but in the final minutes, another Benfica mistake in midfield, this time Petit dwelling on the ball and being robbed, led to it reaching Eto'o, the Cemroonian making no mistake. Barcelona progress to the semi-finals where they will meet AC Milan.


Benfica full back Léo injured himself during training at the Nou Camp Tuesday but he is expected to recover for Wednesday's Champions League quarter-final second leg, . Nuno Gomes is already out through injury. Benfica take a 0-0 draw to Cataluña. "Benfica do not fear Barcelona, we respect them ... which is different," said Ronald Koeman in Tuesday's press conference.


Benfica kept their Champions League dreams alive Tuesday with a worthy 0-0 draw at home to the mighty, but depleted, Barcelona. A packed (65,000) Luz saw Benfica struggle in the first half in the face of Barcelona's superior man-for-man talent, but Ricardo Rocha, drafted in on the right to guard Ronaldinho, and Beto on Deco, did enough to reduce their charges to sporadic bursts of brilliance. It was Moretto in the Benfica goal who caused his team the most butterflies, picking up a back pass to give Barcelona a free kick in the area and later trying to dribble van Bommel in the six yard box. But he was also responsible for some magnificent saves throughout that kept a clean sheet, aided by a defence, with Luisão and Anderson outstanding, that is becoming as solid as a rock.

In the second half, Benfica were much more lively, Miccoli especially, on for the ineffectual Robert, causing Barça all kinds of headaches. Benfica survived a ball against the post twice in a matter of minutes midway throught the half, but they had their chances, too, notably a Petit shot charged down by van Bommel and a Simão shot blocked by Valdes after a superb through ball from Miccoli. Benfica also had a legitimate claim for a penalty denied after Motta had clearly handled Simão's cross on 74 minutes.

But as with Liverpool in the previous round, Benfica prevented Barcelona from scoring at the Luz, which makes the return at the Nou Camp next Wednesday virtually open to all possible outcomes.

Luisão was of the same opinion: "There's everything to play for. Let's see what happens in the second leg; if we manage not to concede goals again and score ... I know that it's going to be complicated, but we're going to try to put our name up there in Europe

Coach Koeman was typically pragmatic: "We knew that Barcelona had a great team and they created a lot of chances, mainly in the first half where we were a bit nervous. In the second half, we improved and created some chances, but in general Barcelona were better ... but they didn't score ... We gained more depth and we were less nervous [with the entrance of Miccoli]. We stopped losing the ball as much as we did in the first half, when we didn't control things at all ... Before this game, Barcelona were clear favourites. In the Nou Camp we're going to suffer a little more, but there are still 90 minutes to go ... I think there was a penalty committed by Motta."

Captain Simão was upbeat: "I think we had chances, just like Barcelona. It was an excellent game and we played well, but luck wasn't on our side ... and we had a penalty that wasn't given. We're on the right track and we'll do all we can to scre in the Nou Camp."

The Barcelona players were unphased by the failure to score:

Ronaldinho: "We're not worried, because of the way we played and the number of chances we created. We have to think that it's not too bad ... [but] ... It's ages since we missed so many chances ... though we're motivated because we played well."

Deco (who got a yellow card for protesting and was booed off the pitch when substituted - he was at Benfica at the beginning of his career): "The game was as we expected. Benfica defended very well and banked on the counter attack with two quick players. We were the better team but we missed a lot of chances and it's hard to win games that way ... but we could have left here with a win."

Motta, who claimed that the handball incident was "involuntary", said: "It was one of those days when the ball doesn't want to go in ... but we can't complain because we have every chance of going through."

The teams lined up:

Benfica: Moretto, Ricardo Rocha, Luisão, Anderson, Léo, Beto, Petit, Manuel Fernandes, Simão, Geovanni (Karagounis 67), Laurent Robert (Miccoli 46).

Barcelona: Valdés, Belletti, Oleguer, Motta, Gio, Iniesta, Van Bommel, Deco (Gabri 75), Larsson (Giuly 75), Eto´o, Ronaldinho Gaúcho


Benfica got the short straw in the draw for the quarter-finals of the Champions League, made Friday: Barcelona, widely regarded as currently the best team in the world.

However, Benfica coach Ronald Koeman, who represented Barça as a player and assistant coach, was happy with the draw:

"It's a nice draw for us because Barcelona have a history that's full of successes, they're recognised on an international level and they have an excellent team. They're one of the favourites for the Champions League and that says everything. On the other hand, the trip to Barcelona is relatively short, which also pleases us. On a personal level, I'm also pleased because I played and coached [as an assistant] there for many years ... I've had a look at my mobile phone and I've got loads of messages from friends I left in Barcelona, not only in the club but also journalists and other people. That's nice ... Barça have a great team once again, with the likes of Ronaldinho, Eto'o and Deco. They're quality footballers. But Benfica have strong team again too, and are notable for the fight they've given the big European clubs, as we've proved recently ... It's in the first game [at the Luz] that we'll have to put on a good exhibition to take a result to Barcelona and give us a better chance to get through ... I always say that when we play at home first, we have to keep a clean sheet. After that, any result is good, even 0-0. But 1-0 would be very good because if we manage to score an away goal, then they have to score three. The philosophy is the same as the one we applied against Liverpool. ... Our forwards can cause problems for the Barcelona defenders ... Barça are a team that take a lot of risks and like to play. That's good, although it will also cause us obvious problems."

The first leg will be played at the Luz on 28 or 29 March, the second in the Nou Camp on 4 or 5 April. Should Benfica get past Barça, they will meet either Olympique Lyon or AC Milan in the semi-finals (18/19 and 25/26 April).


On an historic night for Portuguese football, Portuguese Champions Benfica knocked reigning European Champions Liverpool out of the Champions League with a 2-0 win at Anfield, the first time a Portuguese club has won at the legendary ground.

Benfica brought a 1-0 lead from the Luz, and the instructions from coach Koeman were clear: don't concede a goal early on. But the Lisbon giants rode their luck in an initial 20 minutes that had Liverpool pressing constantly forward with Benfica unable to get any significant ball. Crouch and Carragher hit the post, and Crouch was put through on goal by Gerrard only to shoot against the legs of the Benfica 'keeper Moretto, much improved compared to recent perfomances in the domestic league. Midway through the half, though, Benfica began to turn the tide, and Geovanni fired a warning shot with an excellent shot from outside the area that dipped over Reina but hit the bar. Then on 35 minutes Benfica put together their first really coherent move, but it came from a ball lost by Carragher in midfield. It fell to Nuno Gomes who flashed a pass across the face of the area to Simão, then went on a marvellous diversionary run left that drew two defenders with him, while Simão jinked right and curled a glorious shot into the top right hand corner. Anfield fell silent as the 2,500 Benfica fans filled the stadium with "Ninguém pára o Benfica" ['Nobody can stop Benfica']

Liverpool now needed three goals, and while there were still 55 minutes left, as each minute passed, it became clear that they had shot their bolt in those first 20 minutes, and Benfica were defending so tightly that a Liverpool goal became more and more difficult. Fowler did get the ball in the net from a corner, but the corner kick was deemed to have swung over the goal-line. Two minutes from time, any slim hope left in the hearts of the Liverpool faithful was killed when a poisonous break from Benfica, involving Karagounis, Simão, Beto and finally Miccoli, ended with the stocky Italian swivelling to whisk the ball into the net for the second goal. Liverpool can complain about the bad luck they had in the first half, but the second belonged to Benfica in a master class of spirit and nous, both from the team and coach Koeman, whose tactical decisions before and during the game were impeccable.

The teams lined up:

Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Carragher, Traoré, Warnock (Hamann 70), Luis Garcia, Gerrard, Xabi Alonso, Kewell (Cissé 63), Peter Crouch, Morientes (Fowler 69).

Benfica: Moretto, Alcides, Luisão, Anderson, Léo, Manuel Fernandes, Beto, Laurent Robert (Ricardo Rocha 69), Nuno Gomes (Miccoli 76), Simão, Geovanni (Karagounis 59).

A delighted Ronald Koeman admitted that, especially in the first half, Benfica had been fortunate: "We were in trouble, and they had two or three clear chances, and we had some moments of luck, something that you need to knock out a team like Liverpool ... but after the goal, I think we did great work and defended really well ... I really didn't think we could win at Anfield, but everything's possible in life and we have to be confident ... The 1-0 result at the Luz was very complicated for them ... It's a great night for all Benfiquistas."


Benfica trained at Anfield Tuesday ahead of the return leg of their Champions League tie against Liverpool; Benfica take a 1-0 lead to the reigning European Champions. The Portuguese international Petit was injured during training and is doubtful for the game.

Benfica coach Ronald Koeman was cagey in his approach to the game: "Liverpool will certainly attack in force in the first 15 or 20 minutes, which will mean that we'll have to be very careful at the back ... we'll have to control the game and hope to score a goal ... of the 16 clubs left in the competition, Benfica has the lowest budget."

The hotel in which the team are staying was the object of a false fire alarm Tuesday evening while the squad were having dinner. Director of Football José Veiga prevented the players from evacuating the hotel while all the staff went into the street.


No Portuguese club has entered this year for the Intertoto Cup, the competition that allows the 'less accomplished clubs' a way into the UEFA Cup.


Liverpool midfielder Sissoko is in hospital in the city with his career in jeopardy. Benfica midfielder Beto kicked him (accidentally) in the face during Tuesday's Champions League game and his right eye is reported to be seriously damaged.


Benfica won a famous victory Tuesday, in the Luz, against one of the giants of European fotball, and, incidentally the reigning champions of Europe: Liverpool. In a dire first half, neither side was up to much, caution and ultra-defensive tactics dictating play. In the second half it was Benfica who were the more daring, although this did not always translate into clear chances. But towards the end, Karagounis, on as sub and transforming Benfica's play, was brought down on the edge of the area. While the Liverpool defence might have been expecting a shot from 'Pitball' Petit, he instead floated a cross towards the back post where Brazilian central defender and Benfica's man of the match Luisão beat Hyppia, rather too easily, to glance a header past Reina.

Benfica have to defend the lead at Anfield on 8 March.


Manchester United's Portuguese international Cristiano Ronaldo has been suspended for one game by UEFA for giving Benfica fans the finger after being substituted in the final match of Group D of the Champions League, played at the Luz.


Benfica will meet Liverpool in the last 16 of the Champions League, according to the draw made Friday. The first leg is at the Luz, 21 February, the second at Anfield , 8 March. Tickets for the first leg go on sale Monday.

Benfica coach Ronald Koeman was pragmatic in his response to the draw: "Liverpool are a complicated team - they were first in their group with Chelsea in the same group. They have a very strong defence, they let in very few goals, and from the midfield forward are some Spanish players and the best in England, like the cuptain Gerrard. But it's not an impossible team ... I'd be satisfied with any team because we're in the last 16 on merit. Liverpool are favourites, but we showed against Manchester United that we can beat great teams."

Benfica were up against Liverpool three times in the old format European Cup. They never managed to knock the English club out, and only won one game:

1977/78 (quarter-finals)
Benfica 1-2 Liverpool
Liverpool 4-1 Benfica

1983/84 (quarter-finals)
Liverpool 1-0 Benfica
Benfica 1-4 Liverpool

1984/85 (second round)
Liverpool 3-1 Benfica
Benfica 1-0 Liverpool


Vitória de Guimarães made an inglorious exit from the UEFA Cup with a 1-3 home defeat to Besiktas of Turkey in Group D Wednesday. Vitória were already out of contention for a place in the next phase, and despite the win, the Turkish side were also shut out, with Zenit, Bolton and Seville going through.

Toraman got two, one on seven minutes and the other other on the hour. Saganowski equalised at 1-1 on 11 minutes, but Souleymane restored Besiktas' lead on 17.


Benfica have lodged an official complaint against Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo for the offensive gesture he made to the Benfica fans when he was substituted in the second half of Wednesday's Champions League game at the Luz. Ronaldo faces a fine and/or suspension for the act.




In a tense, often thrilling decider at the Luz Wednesday, Benfica clinched a place in the last 16 of the Champions League, dumping mighty Manchester United out of Europe in the process.

Benfica went behind to a goal on five minutes by Scholes, bundling in a low cross from the right by Neville. But Benfica responded superbly with their best half of the season, all the more surprising because they were without some key regulars. Koeman's decision to play winger Geovanni, dropped for the last couple of Liga games, as centre-forwards with Nuno Gomes in support appeared to confound the Manchester defence, and it was the Brazilian who put Benfica level on 15 minutes, diving to head in from a driven cross by Nélson on the right. On 32, hitherto unloved midfielder Beto drove home a loose ball that deflected off Scholes and in, giving Benfica the springboard for an historic result.

Benfica were playing excellent, organised football, and their defence, with Alcides at right back and Luisão impenetrable, stifled most of what Manchester could throw at them, with Quim on hand with a couple of fine saves when the English forwards got a sight of goal. Cristiano Ronaldo appeared a little nervous and was guilty more than once of showboating. (His finger to the crowd when he was substituted in the second half was a petulant disgrace). Benfica were up against the wall for most of the second half, but always appeared in control of events. Theirs was a victory of head and heart. Manchester showed neither.

Benfica finished second in the group behind Villarreal, with Lilles going to the UEFA Cup. Benfica will now meet one of the seven first placed teams in the knockout stage.

Group A: Juventus and Bayern.
Group B: Arsenal and Ajax.
Group C: Barcelona and Werder Bremen.
Group D: Villarreal and Benfica.
Group E: AC Milan and PSV Eindhoven.
Group F: Lyon and Real Madrid.
Group G: Liverpool and Chelsea.
Group H: Inter Milan and Glasgow Rangers


FC Porto are out of the European Competitions this season. They could do no better than a 0-0 draw at ArtMedia of Bratislavia Tuesday when they needed a win to at least qualify for the UEFA Cup. That place goes to ArtMedia, while Rangers will be counting their blessings after a 1-1 draw at home to Inter Milan puts them into the last 16 of the Champions League, the first time a Scottish has got so far in the Champions League.

Wednesday's game in Bratislava was played out in torrential rain and on a quagmire of a pitch. Porto's artists, like Quaresma, Lisandro Lopez, Lucho Gonzalez, Diego and Benni McCarthy, were mostly all at sea, while the heroes, if any, on the Portuguese side were 'keeper Vítor Baía, keeping his side in the game right until the end, central defender Pepé and midfielder Paulo Assunção, all with gritty perfomances. But as captain Pedro Emanuel said after the game, qualification was not thrown away on this last day; perfectly avoidable defeats at Rangers and at home to ArtMedia earlier in the group stage eventually proved fatal.

Manchester United arrived in Lisbon Tuesday ahead of their final Champions League Group D game against Benfica. They have brought 20 players with them:

Goalkeepers: Van der Sar, Howard;
Defenders: Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand, Silvestre, OShea, Brown, Pique, Bardsley;
Midfielders: Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Alan Smith, Fletcher, Cristiano Ronaldo, Park, Richardson;
Forwards: Wayne Rooney, Van Nistelrooy, Saha, Rossi.

For their part, Benfica will be without Simão, Manuel Fernandes, Miccoli, and Karagounis.


Co Adriaanse has named his squad to travel to Bratislava Sunday ahead of the crucial Champions League Group H game against Artmedia Tuesday. Returning to the squad is young winger Ivanildo:

Goalkeepers: Vítor Baía, Helton;
Defenders: Bosingwa, Bruno Alves, Pedro Emanuel, Pepe, Ricardo Costa, Cech, César Peixoto;
Midfielders: Paulo Assunção, Ibson, Lucho, Diego, Alan, Jorginho, Quaresma;
Forwards: Ivanildo, Lisandro, Hugo Almeida, McCarthy.


Vitória de Guimarães are out of the UEFA Cup after they went down 1-3 at Seville Thursday in the penultimate Group H game. By half-time it was all over bar the shouting, Saviola (2) and Adriano putting Seville three-up, and Benachour pulling one back just before the break for Vitória. Seville are fourth in the Spanish league, while Vitória are second from bottom in Portugal ... and the difference in terms of control of the game was well reflected. Zenit of St. Petersburg and Seville are through, while the final place will go to Boltona or Besiktas, who visit Guimarães on the last day. Vitória will take the wooden spoon if they don't beat Besiktas.

The teams lined up:

Seville: Palop, Daniel Alves, Aitor Ocio, Dragutinovic, Puerta, Jesús Navas, Martí, Maresca, Adriano (Diego Capel 72), Saviola (Jordi 72), Kanoute (Kepa 51)

Vitória de Guimarães: Paiva, Mário Sérgio, Dragonér, Cléber, Rogério Matias, Svard, Moreno, Benachour, Neca (Manoel, 74 m), Targino (Paulo Sérgio, 61 m), Sagawoski (Dário, 46 m).


Vitória de Guimarães were within a whisker of taking all three points against Bolton Wanderers in Group H of the UEFA Cup Thursday. They had gone one-nil up on 84 minutes with a goal from Saganowski, but three minutes later, the Portuguese Ricardo Vaz Tê ("He wasn't very patriotic today" - Vitória coach Jaime Pacheco), on as sub for Okocha a minute before, levelled the score.

The teams lined up:

Vitória de Guimarães: Paiva, Mário Sérgio, Dragoner, Cléber, Rogério Matias, Flávio Meireles, Svard, Benachour, Neca (Paulo Sérgio 81), Saganowski, Dário (Targino 60).

Bolton: Jaaskelainen, O`Brien, Ben Haim, N`Gotty, Gardner, Giannakopoulos, Nolan, Faye, Nakata (Speed 59), Okocha (Vaz Tê 86), Borgetti (Diouf 63).

Vitória, penultimate in the mini-league, will need to win their next game in Seville to stand a chance of qualifying. Their last game is against Besiktas. Zenit are top of the group on six points, followed by Bolton on five, Seville on three, and Guimarães and Besiktas on one.


FC Porto are still in the fight to qualify from Group H for the next stage of the Champions League, despite dropping two points with a 1-1 draw at home to Rangers . If they win their last game at ArtMedia of Slovakia and Rangers lose at home to Inter Milan they will get through. But a win Wednesday would have given them a far better chance.

Dutch coach Co Adriaanse was once again guilty of excessive caution, starting without an out-and-out striker and immediately putting on a defender, Bruno Alves, after his team went one up on the hour through the Argentinian Lisandro Lopes, hurling himself at a Bosingwa cross to head in from close range. But the whole of the defence was ball-watching on 82 minutes to give McCormack a free shot from a lay-off at the back post to score. It was practically Rangers' only chance, but in the dying minutes, Lopes and Paulo Assunção both had prime opportunities to redress the balance of play, but Waterreus was up to it.

The teams lined up:

FC Porto: Vítor Baía, Bosingwa, Pepe, Pedro Emanuel (Hugo Almeida, 46 m), César Peixoto, Lucho, Paulo Assunção, Diego (Bruno Alves, 63 m), Jorginho, Lisandro, Quaresma.

Rangers: Waterreus, Ricksen, Andrews, Kyrgiakos, Ian Murray, Hemdani, Namouchi, Alex Rae (Thompson, 61 m), Ferguson, Lovenkrands (Burke, 77 m), Jeffers (McCormack, 75 m).


A ramshackle Benfica salvaged a point in a 0-0 draw against Lilles in front of 76,000 in Group D of the Champions League, in Paris Tuesday. The result throws the group wide open, especially as Manchester United could only draw 0-0 at home to Spanish club Vilareal. Benfica lined up strangely: four central defenders, and the full backs 'promoted' to wing-backs. In fact, the back four were the least to blame for Benfica's trouble, and 'keeper Quim kept the French out on several occasions. Benfica benefited from the result of the other Group D game where Manchester United drew 0-0 at home to Spanish club Villareal. Qualification now depends on the final group game next week, where Benfica meet Manchester United at the Luz.


Benfica slumped to the bottom of Group D of the Champions League Wednesday with a 0-1 home defeat to Villarreal.The game was pretty even throughout, the Spanish side showing slightly more organisation. But Benfica's key players Simão just back from injury) and Nélson were well below their best. Benfica were downed by a sucker punch on 80 minutes, Senna striding through the midfield and hitting a specculative shot from 35 metres that swung but should have been stopped by young 'keeper Rui Nereu. Villarreal go to the top of the group on six points, Lille, who beat Manchester United 1-0 at home, have five, as do Unbited, and Benfica are bottom with four.

The teams lined up:

Benfica: Rui Nereu, Nélson, Luisão, Anderson (Nuno Assis, 83 m), Léo, Petit, Manuel Fernandes, Geovanni (João Pereira, 69 m), Karagounis (Mantorras, 69 m), Simão, Nuno Gomes.

Villarreal: Barbosa, Javi Venta, Quique Alvarez, Gonzalo Rodriguez, Arrubarrena, Marcos Senna (Peña, 90 m), Josico, Sorín, Riquelme, José Mari (Guayre, 70 m), Diego Forlan (Figueroa, 52 m).


FC Porto were in a position to come away from Milan with something Tuesday in their Group H Champions League game against Inter. In a deserted Guiseppe Meazza Stadium (after crowd trouble in last season's Inter v AC Milan CL match), Porto were in front for an hour, but caution got the better of them and they succumbed to two goals in a short second-half spell, both avoidable.

In a first quarter of an hour notable only for the scrappiness of play, Porto drew the first blood. Samuel fouled Hugo Almeida 30 metres out, and the Porto striker drove home a magnificent free-kick that rose unstoppably into the top left hand corner. But then Porto sat back and let Inter bring it on. The Portuguese side were doing a good job of restricting the chances on Baía's goal until the 74th minute when central defender Pedro Emanuel, immaculate up to that point, tripped Pizarro on the edge of the box and Júlio Cruz , on as sub but who should have been sent off two weeks ago in Porto and thus suspended, slotted in the spot kick. Eight minutes later, another sub, the 36-year-old Mihajlovic, sent over a corner from the left that Cruz headed in for his second, Raul Meireles letting the ball squeeze past him at the post he was supposed to be guarding. And so it finished, 2-1.

The teams lined up:

Inter: Júlio César, Burdisso, Materazzi, Samuel (Mihajlovic 66), Favalli, Figo, Veron, Pizarro, Wome (Cambiasso 53), Martins, Adriano (Júlio Cruz 61).

FC Porto: Vítor Baía, Bosingwa, Pepe, Pedro Emanuel, Cech, Paulo Assunção (Bruno Alves 61), Lucho Gonzalez, Alan (Raul Meireles 46), Jorginho, Quaresma, Hugo Almeida (McCarthy 76).

Porto Coach Co Adriaanse gave Inter the benefit of having been the better side on the night: "We've played a lot of games so far, and I think we've been better than the opponent in all of them ... Today, though, I have to admit that Inter were better and deserved to win. We didn't create many chances, but they have players of great quality. We scored a beautiful goal and in the first half we controlled the game at times, but we weren't safe enough, and as Inter put the pressure on, we finished letting in two goals from dead-ball situations." Defending his decision to try to hold on to the lead, he said: "[I changed Paulo Assunção for Bruno Alves because] I wanted more height in the team, and as there were only 20 minutes left and we were winning, I wanted to bolster our defence. But I don't think it's because of that that we conceded the goals."

The good news for Porto was that the other two teams in the group, Artmedia and Rangers, drew 2-2 in Bratislava, meaning that neither were able to draw away. Inter have nine points, Artmedia and Rangers five and Porto three. But Porto must win their last two games, at home to Rangers and away at Artmedia, to be certain of passing to the knockout stage.


Vitória de Guimarães came away from Russia Thursday with no points to show for a spirited display in the face of crippling adversity in the first of their Group H UEFA Cup games. The 2-1 defeat to Zenit was a travesty of justice, with the match officials guilty of some very dubious decisions. Medeiros was sent off on 36 minutes for what was a clumsy, accidental challenge in the penalty area, Spivak scoring from the spot. Early in the second half, Arshevin extended the Russians' lead with a fine strike from outside the area on the counter attack. But Vitória reacted magnificently, and pushed Zenit further and further back. Neca reduced it to 2-1 with a shot that was deflected off a defender, and Vitória should have equalised on 73 minutes when Benchour fired home, but the goal was disallowed for a positional offside on Saganowski. The referee forgave Zenit two clear penalties for fouls committed on Targino and Dragoner, and although he evened up the numbers by sending off Radimov on 83 minutes, he will not very soon be forgiven in Guimarães for a skewed reading of the game.

In the other Group H game, Besiktas drew 1-1 at home to Bolton, while Seville rested.


Although it rained heavily on the Estádio do Dragão Wednesday, the gods were smiling on FC Porto as the former European Champions, without a point in their first two Champions League Group H games, fashioned a vital 2-0 win over mighty Inter Milan ... and then learned that Rangers could only draw 0-0 with Artmedia in the other game in the group, throwing at least second place (behind Inter) wide open again. Inter have six points, Rangers and Artmedia four and Porto three.

Porto coach Co Adriaanse made several changes to the team that had disappointed at home to Benfica at the weekend, most importantly in defence, where the experienced Pedro Emanuel and young Pepe returned, and Marek Che made his debut at left back ... and it was a completely different story. It was thanks to a defending blunder at the other end that Porto took the lead on 20 minutes, Materazzi putting through his own goal from across by Bosingwa. Porto were two-up after 35, McCarthy firing in a loose ball from the edge of the box.

Porto rode their luck a little in the second half, back-peddling and letting Inter into the game, and the Italians might have got a result put for a post stopping a Figo header and Baía and Inter's wayward shooting helping them on several other occasions. In the dying minutes, Inter forward Júlio Cruz was scandalously forgiven at the very least a second yellow but probably a direct red for a vicious foul on Assunção, with the referee looking on.

The teams lined up:

FC Porto: Vítor Baía, Bosingwa, Pepe, Pedro Emanuel, Cech, Jorginho (Ibson 90), Lucho, Paulo Assunção, Quaresma (Ivanildo 82), McCarthy (Alan 60), Hugo Almeida.

Inter Milan: Júlio César, Córdoba, Samuel, Materazzi, Favalli, Figo (Zé Maria, 82 m), Verón, Cambiasso, Pizarro (Recoba, 52 m), Solari (Adriano, 66 m), Júlio Cruz.


Benfica earned an important 1-1 draw at Villareal Tuesday in the third of their Champions League Group D games. They keep second place in the group on four points, one behind Manchester united, who drew 0-0 at home to Lille, one ahead of Villareal and two ahead of Lille.

Benfica put in a solid first half display, giving little ground, but ther was also a lot of wary football from both sides. In the second half, Villareal brought the game to Benfica but once again the Benfica defence was up to it, and in Rui Nereu, third-choice 'keeper called on to replace Quim, who pulled a muscle, they had a mini hero on his debut for the club, keeping Villareal out on several occasions. He could do nothing to stop Villareal taking the lead on 70 minutes, however, Riquelme sending him the wrong way from the spot after Ricardo Rocha had brought Sorín down. But just five minutes later, Ricardo Rocha pushed the ball forward to Nuno Gomes, the forward knocked it inside and Manuel Fernandes took it on his chest and volleyed in from 25 metres with Viera slightly off his line: a fabulous goal.

Benfica's next group game will be at home to Villreal. A win would put them in a very strong position to qualify for the next phase.

The teams lined up:

Villarreal: Viera, Cazorla, Gonzalo, Arzo, Arruabarrena (Josico), Sorin, Tacchinardi (Roger 80), Kromkamp, Riquelme, Jose Mari (Figueroa 79), Forlan

Benfica: Quim (Nereu 30), Nelson, Anderson, Luisao, Rocha, Simao, Karagounis (Karyaka 65), Manuel Fernandes, Petit, Geovanni (Beto 89), Nuno Gomes.


It has been a particularly inglorious time for Portugal's European teams these past few days. Benfica and FC Porto lost in the Champions League earlier in the week, and all but one of the four Portuguese teams were knocked out of the UEFA Cup Thursday.

The most scandalous of the defeats was Sporting's at home to Swedish side Halmstad. They had brought a 2-1 lead back from Sweden and passage to the next round seemed a foregone conclusion. In a first half in which a poor Sporting once again received whistles from the 14,000 (!) in the stands, Halmstad went in front after a quarter of an hour when Thorvaldsson was sent through by Preko and ran on to slip the ball under Nélson. Wender silenced the whistles momentarily with a fine goal on 39 minutes, cutting in from the right and curling the ball into the far corner with his left.

Sporting were through .. if they could hang on to that score; they couldn't. In added time, Djuric headed in from a long free-kick, with Nélson hopelessly out of position. Zvirgsdauskas put through his own goal in the first half of extra time to swing the balance back Sporting's way, but then in the second half, Ingelsten was at the unguarded back post to head in from a corner and send Sporting out, amidst more whistles.

The teams lined up:
Nélson, Miguel Garcia, Beto, Polga, Paíto (Varela, 115 m), João Alves, Luís Loureiro (Custódio, 46 m), João Moutinho; Douala, Deivid (Pinilla, 75 m), Wender.

Halmstads: Conny Johansson, Emil Jensen, Zvirgzdauskas, Tommy Jonson, Per Johansson (Delani, 81 m), Anklev (Ingelsten, 77 m), Andreas Johansson (Joel Johansson, 74 m), Magnus Svensson, Preko, Djuric, Thorvaldsson.

Sporting Braga had brought what looked like a useful 0-0 draw back from Belgrade, but Red Star got the all-important away goal on ten minutes, Purovic knocking in a half-hit volley that bamboozled Paulo Santos. Braga had many chances to turn the game round, but it wasn't until the 85th minute that Jaime glanced in a free-kick from Rossato, and then it was too late. There was trouble on and off the pitch at the end.

An early goal fro Gasbarroni sentenced Vitória de Setúbal at Sampdória (first leg 1-1), but the Sadinos could have taken it to extra time on several occasions and went out with dignity.

The only bright light on the night was Vitória de Guimarães' 1-0 win at Wisla Krakow that put a topping on the 3-0 advantage from the Guimarães leg. Saganowski got the goal on 82 minutes to give Vitória fans something to take their minds off the team's disastrous start to the domestic season.


FC Porto's 112th birthday present to themselves was a disastrous 2-3 home defeat at the hands of European 'unknowns' Artmedia of Bratislava in Group H of the Champions League . (see match report)

Porto have no points from their first two games (they lost the first at Rangers by the same score) and are bottom of the group. It's looking desperate for them: they have yet to play the mighty Inter Milan twice in this group, and will need to get points from those games.

Sporting's star striker Liedson will be missing from the UEFA Cup return leg against Halmstads Thursday, ostensibly through injury, but the Brazilian is facing disciplinary proceedings at the club after verbally abusing coach José Peseiro after being substituted during the weekend's win against Vitória de Setúbal.

The Sporting squad:
Nelson, Ricardo.
Defenders: Miguel Garcia, Polga, Beto, Tonel, Semedo, Paíto
Midfielders: Luís Loureiro, Custódio, João Moutinho, João Alves, Nani, Wender
Forwards: Douala, Varela, Deivid, Pinilla.

Sporting Braga receive Red Star with the following squad:
'Keepers: Paulo Santos, Marco;
Defenders: Abel, Nunes, Nem, Jorge Luíz, Paulo Jorge;
Midfielders: Vandinho, Madrid, Sidney, Hugo Leal, Castanheira, Jaime, Rossato, Luis Filipe, Davide, Cândido Costa;
Forwards: Maxi.

Vitória de Setúbal are in Italy where they face Sampdoria. The spirit of the players cannot have been helped by the news that just one month into the new season, their salaries are already late.


Benfica threw away a great chance to grab something from Old Trafford Tuesday when they went down 1-2 to Manchester United in the second game in Group D of the Champions League. The Águias were clearly the better side in the first half, pushing a depleted United back with organized and vigorous football, but it was United that created the most danger near goal, Nistelrooy hitting the bar and on another occasion slipping when he was through on goal. Then on 39 minutes, a free-kick from Giggs deflected wildly off the defensive wall leaving 'keeper Moreira rooted to the spot.

Benfica were back in the game on 58 minutes, Simão's perfect free-kick curling beyond Van der Saar's right hand, but it was a different, more subdued Benfica in the second half, and United made them pay the price five minutes from time, a Giggs corner flicked on by Rio Ferdinand at the near post for Nistelrooy to knock in at point blank range. In a panic, Koeman put on Mantorras and Geovanni to salvage something, but it was too much to ask of them, too late.

The teams lined up:

Manchester United: Van Der Sar, Bardsley, Ferdinand, O´Shea, Richardson, Fletcher, Smith, Giggs, Scholes, Ronaldo, Nistelrooy.

Benfica: Moreira, Nélson, Luisão, Ricardo Rocha, Léo, Petit, Manuel Fernandes (Geovanni, 86 m), Beto (Mantorras, 86 m), Simão, Miccoli (Pereira, 79 m), Nuno Gomes.


Benfica coach Ronald Koeman played down the pressure that his side will be facing in front of 68,000 at Old Trafford for the Champions League tie against Manchester United Tuesday. "We have to take something positive out of the public to help us reach our objective," he said. He was also guardedly optimistic: "We know that they have a lot of players injured and that they're going through a bad patch, but we're going to play against a great team with very good players ... but we have a bigger chance to win now than we would have had in recent seasons. [...] I don't think we're going to be under any more pressure than in other games. We already have three points, so I think Manchester United are going to be under greater pressure."

Striker Nuno Gomes, who has recently been back amongst the goals, was also in a positive, if rather humble, mood. "It's any player's dream to be able to be present at moments like these. They're games in which any player in the world would like to be able to play, so we just have to go out there and enjoy it and be proud that we can be present in the Champions League and play in stadiums like this ... but neither the stadium nor the support of the English public is going to intimidate us."


The four Portuguese sides in the hat for the UEFA Cup were given varying degrees of difficulty in the draw for the first round proper. Vitória de Setúbal look to have the hardest task against Italian side Sampdoria, while Sporting, who failed entry into the Champions League this week, have, at least on paper, the easiest against Halmstads of Sweden. Portuguese involvement looks lke this:

Red Star Belgrade (Serbia/Montenegro) v Sporting Braga
Vitória de Setúbal v Sampdoria (Italy)
Vitória de Guimarães v Wislaw Krakow (Poland)
Halmstads BK (Sweden) v

Games are scheduled for 15 and 29 September.


Benfica and FC Porto have been drawn in what sports daily A Bola has called "accessible" groups in the Champions League. Benfica are in the same group as Manchester United , while FC Porto's most complicated opponent will be Inter Milan.

Group D
Manchester United (England)
Villarreal (Spain)
Lille (France)

Group H
Inter Milan (Italy)
FC Porto
Glasgow Rangers (Scotland)
Artmedia Pertalka (Slovakia)

Benfica start their campaign at home to Lille, while FC Porto have to travel to Rangers.

Group D
14/09 - Benfica v Lille
27/09 - Manchester United v Benfica
18/10 - Villarreal v Benfica
02/11 - Benfica v Villarreal
22/11 - Lille-Benfica
06/12 - Benfica-Manchester United

Grupo H
13/09 - Rangers v FC Porto
28/09 - FC Porto v Artmedia
19/10 - FC Porto v Inter
01/11 - Inter-F.C. Porto (behind closed doors)
23/11 - FC Porto v Rangers
07/12 - Artmedia Petrzalka v FC Porto


It was always going to be a difficult game for Sporting, taking a 0-1 deficit to Udine for the second leg of the Champions League qualifying round, and so it proved. Sporting did not help themselves, though, giving Udinense, fourth in Série A last year, 35 minutes of virtual freedom in front of their goal and gifting them two goals to make the hill the Lions had to climb virtually insurmountable. The Italians hit the woodwork twice before Iaquinta fashioned a penalty out of nothing, a 'foul' by Ricardo, and the tall striker sent the 'keeper the wrong way from the spot. That was on 22 minutes, and just 12 minutes later came a killer blow for Sporting's hopes as a Muntari corner was headed goalwards by de Natali and Ricardo somehow managed to let it slip through his arms, low and to his right. Douala clipped a low shot home from outside the area on 38 minutes, and that heralded Sporting's best spell, on either side of half-time.

But their pressure came up against a superbly organised Italian rearguard, and it was Udinese who extended their lead in the dying seconds of normal time, through sub Barreto , when Sporting were on their last legs. Pinilla, on as sub for Rogério as Peseiro threw everything forward, got a consolation in added time to make it 3-2 on the night.

So Sporting miss out on the millions of the Champions League and must content themselves with the UEFA Cup, for which the draw is on Friday. They can blame themselves for folding at the crunch, just as they did last season in the Liga and the UEFA Cup, for a couple of iffy refereeing decisions both at Alvalade and in Udine, and for a horrifying frango by Ricardo on the night that knocked the hope out of Sporting hearts. For football played, Sporting had the upper hand two weeks ago but couldn't exploit it. Tonight, Udinense were dominant and did make it pay. That was the difference.

The teams lined up:
De Sanctis, Bertotto, Natali, Felipe, Zenoni, Obodo, Muntari (Mauri, 70 m), Vidigal, Candela, Di Natale (Barreto, 81 m), Iaquinta.

Sporting: Ricardo, Rogério (Pinilla, 80 m), Polga, Beto, Tello (Edson, 46 m), Rochemback, Luís Loureiro, João Moutinho, São Pinto (Deivid, 46 m), Liedson, Douala.


Sporting misfired in their first outing of the Champions League Wednesday, going down 0-1 at home to Italian side Udinese. The single goal came from a penalty on 27 minutes from striker Iaquinta (see match report). Sporting now face the daunting task of reversing the result on Italian soil, traditionally a veritable mountain to climb. On the positive side, Sporting did create enough chances on the night to have finished the evening on a happier note. If they have their scoring boots on in Udine in two weeks' time, then maybe it's not all over. Or at least, coach José Peseiro will be trying to convince his players of that in a game in which psychology will be crucial.


Sporting will face Udinese at home in the Champions League qualifying round on 10 August, it was announced Monday. The return in Italy will be on 23 August.


Sporting will meet Italian side Udinese in the third preliminary round of the Champions League. The draw Friday put Sporting at home first (9 or 10 August) and then away (23 or 24).


União de Leiria are out of Europe at the first hurdle, losing their second leg Intertoto Cup game against SV Hamburg 0-2 in Germany, the goals coming in the second half from Barbarez , a penalty, and Lauth. União had lost the first leg 0-1.


União de Leiria's European adventure appears to be practically over before it really began. The team from the city of the River Lis went down 0-1 in the first leg of the third round of the Intertoto Cup against German side SV Hamburg. Trochowski scored the only goal ten minutes into the second half..

The teams lined up:

U. Leiria: Costinha, Laranjeiro, Renato, João Paulo, Alhandra, Paulo Gomes (Ferreira, 59m), Kata, Nené; Fábio Felício (Lourenço, 75m), Maciel, Cadu da Silva (Paulo César, 49m)

Hamburg: Watcher, Klingbeil, Boulahrouz, Van Buyten, Atouba (Schmidt, 61m), Trochowski, Demel, Beinlich; Van der Vaart, Barbarez (Takhara, 61m), Émile Mpenza (Lauth, 75m)


União de Leiria's opponents in the third round of the Intertoto Cup will be SV Hamburg. The German side finished off Macedonian side Pobeda 4-1 Sunday after they had won the first leg by the same score. União play Hamburg at home first, next Saturday, 16/07.


Benfica are 16th in British bookmaker William Hill's odds to win next season's Champions League. FC Porto and Sporting are both 20th, with Sporting having first to get through the final preliminary round. English side Chelsea are favourites.


Portugal has maintained its sixth place in the UEFA rankings, behind Spain, England, Italy, France and Germany. The position means that Portugal will continue to have two clubs qualifying directly for the Champions League in 2006/07, with one other club having to get through the preliminary round. Three clubs will qualify for the UEFA Cup.


União de Leiria have been allowed to participate in this year's edition of the Intertoto Cup, which gives lesser teams a chance to qualify for the UEFA Cup. Although União finished below the permitted position to enter the competition, an exception has been made for them by UEFA since they were the only Portuguese club club to register for the competition


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