Benfica advanced to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Europa League following a wild 2-2 draw at home to Tottenham Hotspur on Thursday evening at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon.
The hosts went ahead through Ezequiel Garay in the 34th minute and seemed to be cruising until Nacer Chadli gave Tottenham hope with two goals in as many second-half minutes. The visitors then had multiple chances to score a third goal—which could have forced extra time—before Benfica sealed their progress with Lima's late penalty.
Coupled with last week's 3-1 victory in London, Benfica won the two-legged round-of-16 tie 5-3.
"This was a team effort. We had some players who do not play very often and they reacted well," Lima told UEFA.com. "There are no favourites in the draw. Regardless of who we get (in the quarter-finals), we must work hard, take one game at a time and focus on this competition."
While Thursday's result might have little individual effect on Tottenham manager Tim Sherwood's future, the cumulative damage could have already been done. While Spurs experienced a brief uptick in results following his appointment in December, Sherwood has failed to win any of his last four matches in all competitions at a crucial stage of the season.
With their European campaign finished, Tottenham are seven points behind fourth-placed Manchester City in the race for the Premier League's final Champions League berth for next season. Meanwhile, Spurs continue to be linked with Netherlands manager Louis van Gaal, with talkSPORT's Dom Bryant reporting that Tottenham have already offered the 62-year-old the job.
"We didn't do ourselves justice at home (in the first leg) but we came here with a 3-1 deficit and we’re going home disappointed we didn’t turn it around—that says everything," Sherwood told TottenhamHotspur.com. "The performance of the players as a group was magnificent."
For Benfica, on the other hand, the quest for silverware on multiple fronts will continue for at least another round. After finishing as runners-up in the Europa League last season, manager Jorge Jesus' side have the pedigree to make another deep run, and in beating Tottenham, the Portuguese league leaders eliminated one of the bigger names left in the competition.
But in order to win a first European trophy since 1962, Benfica will also have to balance the demands of both the league and Portuguese Cup.
Leading the league by seven points with seven games left, the Eagles find themselves in a strong position to claim the title for the first time since 2010. Meanwhile, Benfica will have to overcome Porto in the semi-finals of the Portuguese Cup, a competition they won last season.
Needing three away goals to stay alive, Tottenham faced a tough task from the start. To make matters worse, Spurs had to overcome the absence of several first-team regulars for their trip to Portugal.
With four centre-backs unavailable through injury and suspension, Sherwood drafted left-back Zeki Fryers and central midfielder Sandro into the middle of his defence. Brad Friedel, 42, took over from Hugo Lloris in goal.
Tottenham's first clear chance came in the 14th minute as Fryers headed on Gylfi Sigurdsson's corner to an unmarked Roberto Soldado at the back post. But with plenty of time to pick out his shot, Soldado bounced a weak effort into the ground and over the bar.
Spurs had another half chance 12 minutes later, when Sigurdsson picked out Nacer Chadli with a corner from the left. But Chadli flicked his header wide of the post and the chance passed.
The opening goal arrived in the 34th minute, but although Spurs had sustained most of the attacks to that point, Benfica made the most of their opportunity. Working down the right flank, Eduardo Salvio cut inside and lofted a cross into the middle for Garay, who powered in his header for a Benfica lead.
Leading 1-0 at half-time, Benfica increased in stature after the break and held the majority of possession. Spurs managed to create a half chance in the 58th minute, when Andros Townsend cut in from the left, but his shot was deflected wide of the target.
But just when it seemed Spurs were running out of hope, Chadli produced two quick goals to get back into the tie.
Chadli grabbed his first in the 78th minute, cutting in from the left before equalising with a fine strike into the bottom corner. Just a minute later, he put Spurs ahead 2-1, hooking into the net from close range.
Suddenly Tottenham needed only one more goal to force extra time. They nearly had it in the second minute of stoppage time, but Benfica goalkeeper Jan Oblak clawed away Sigurdsson's header. A minute later, substitute Harry Kane headed straight at Oblak.
The match still had another twist left, though, and Benfica won a penalty in the fourth minute of stoppage time. Lima, a second-half substitute, converted confidently to give the home side a 2-2 draw on the night—and more importantly, a 5-3 aggregate victory over two legs.
"We were playing a great side in Benfica and I thought we were a bit unlucky," Kane told UEFA.com. "We showed we are a team and that we are together. We stuck together throughout both legs and hung in there."
|Benfica Player Ratings vs. Tottenham Hotspur|
|Enzo Perez (for Djuricic, 71')||N/A||5.8|
|Lima (for Cardozo, 76')||N/A||6.8|
|Lazar Markovic (for Sulejmani, 90')||N/A||6.1|
|Ratings via WhoScored.com|
|Tottenham Hotspur Player Ratings vs. Benfica|
|Harry Kane (for Soldado, 71')||N/A||7.3|
|Christian Eriksen (for Townsend, 76')||N/A||6.1|
|Ratings via WhoScored.com|
Benfica host Academica de Coimbra in the Portuguese league on Sunday. Tottenham Hotspur host Southampton in the Premier League the same day.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!