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Thursday, April 5, 2007

UEFA Cup, Benfica 3-2 Espanyol

Benfica score valuable away goals!

Two goals in as many minutes kept Benfica's hopes alive against Espanyol as they fought back from 3-0 down to lose 3-2 away in their UEFA Cup quarter-final first leg on Thursday.

Raúl Tamudo, Albert Riera and Walter Pandiani looked to have given the Barcelona club an unassailable lead but two goals in the space of three second-half minutes from Nuno Gomes and captain Simão gave the visitors two priceless away goals ahead of next week's return leg in Lisbon.

The Spanish side started the game more brightly than their fellow Iberians and fully deserved to take the lead midway through the first half. Raul Tamudo collected the ball inside the penalty area before skipping past Benfica’s David Luiz and hitting a rising shot into the back of the net.

That lead was doubled just after the half hour as Raul Tamudo again caused Benfica's defence problems. His deep cross from the right touchline found Albert Riera lurking at the far post. The left winger's goalbound volley was deflected past his own goalkeeper by Benfica's Nelson as the defender desperately tried to stop the ball from crossing the line.

Benfica came out looking for a goal but the home side still looked the more dangerous with Francisco Rufete and the outstanding Riera offering a constant outlet down the flanks. With a healthy advantage home coach Ernesto Valverde felt confident enough to sacrifice Tamudo for the tournament’s top scorer Pandiani on 53 minutes. It proved an inspired substitution as within five minutes the Uruguayan had taken his UEFA Cup tally to ten, rising above the Benfica defence to head in another excellent Riera centre.

The Primera División team looked to be heading for Lisbon with a comfortable lead but the complexion of the tie changed completely shortly after the hour. Nuno Gomes pulled a goal back with a tap-in on 63 minutes after substitute Fabrizio Miccoli had beaten the offside trap and two minutes later captain Simão, cutting into the box from the left side, struck Benfica's second with a shot that deflected off Daniel Jarque and into the net. Miccoli then missed a chance to complete the fightback when he blazed across the face of the goal but Quim ensured there would be no further scoring at the other end by thwarting Pandiani.

UEFA Cup Espanyol 3-2 Benfica goals: