Benfica end Juve’s Champions League hopes in seven-goal thriller

LISBON — Benfica’s Rafa Silva scored two superb goals as they edged Juventus (Juve) 4-3 in a thriller at Estadio da Luz on Tuesday to seal a place in the knockout stages of the Champions League and end the Italian club’s chances in this year’s competition.

Benfica have 11 points from five games, the same as Group H leaders Paris St Germain (PSG), while Juve’s three points leaves them to focus on winning a place in the Europe League, something they can secure on the final matchday when they host PSG.

The home side are now unbeaten in 20 games in all competitions this season and it is easy to see why as they were inventive with the ball and might have been out of sight at halftime before a late Juve rally meant a nervous finish.

As it was, it is the first time in Juve’s history they have conceded three first half goals in the Champions League and the first time since 2013-14 they have failed to get out of their group.

“It was a typical Champions League match, we knew we were playing against a great team,” Benfica goalscorer Joao Mario told Mediaset.

“Our game was beautiful until the 70th minute, then Juve have a lot of quality and put us in difficulty.

“We know that there is a long way to go, the season has just begun. We must continue like this, keep the right mindset and always work hard.”

Teenager Antonio Silva scored his first Benfica goal to give the home side the lead after 17 minutes, but Juventus drew level when Moise Kean bundled the ball home four minutes later.

Benfica were back in front thanks to a controversial penalty that was converted by Joao Mario before Rafa Silva appeared to make the points safe with two sublime finishes, either side of the break, that perfectly illustrated his technique and guile.

But the visitors pulled a goal back late on through Arkadiusz Milik after he was set up by young English winger Samuel Iling, and the latter was key again in creating a chance for Weston McKennie to score Juve’s third.

That saw a tense finish on a night when Benfica looked as though they would humiliate their visitors but had to hold on as Rafa Silva missed out on a hat-trick by hitting the post.

“It’s really a pity and difficult to find the words,” Juventus midfielder Manuel Locatelli said. “There is even more regret, the last minutes (of the game) are from a team that has the balls to play. Let’s start again (in the next match) from those last minutes.

“Football is made up of episodes, the whole team made the wrong approach (in the first half), not a single player.” — Reuters

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