Benfica vs. Juventus: 6 Things We Learned
Juventus lost for the first time in the Europa League this season.
They never looked ready to seize the first leg of this semi-final in Lisbon—a 2-1 defeat to Benfica—and when Juventus did get the equalizer, they then sat back and conceded the winner.
Benfica won their 33rd Portuguese title at the weekend and started the game with that championship spirit.
Defender Ezequiel Garay scored off a header early in the third minute—Juventus' Leonardo Bonucci lost his man, and Garay was completely open on the corner kick—so Juventus had to chase Benfica for most of the game.
Here are a few things to asses as we look back at Thursday's action.
Carlos Tevez Breaks the Spell
He had played 26 games since he last scored a goal in European competition. It was April 2009, and he was still playing for Manchester United. That goal came against Porto. With a little bit of tricky footwork, Carlos Tevez fooled the defenders and scored against Portuguese opponents again.
Even before the goal, he was working hard, head down, running to fetch the ball at every chance. Tevez has scored eight goals and assisted two others in his past 13 games, per WhoScored.com.
He will be crucial to Juventus during this final stretch.
Lima Has Found a Home
The 30-year-old Brazilian has played for 12 clubs but has never played for his country.
Nevertheless, it is with Benfica that Lima has finally reached the highest point of his career. He scored both goals in the win that sealed the title for Benfica at the weekend and netted the winner on Thursday in the 84th minute.
And what a shot it was: a strike from the tip of the box, the ball launching up and into the net in a hurry.
He has scored four goals on just six attempts in only 162 minutes of Europa League action, per WhoScored. The man does not waste time.
Goals for Benfica
Benfica have scored more goals in the knockout phase of the Europa League (14) than any other team remaining, and Garay set the tone with the header.
Dynamic and quick, the Portuguese champions threatened Juventus on the counter and did not give Gianluigi Buffon a chance to get comfortable.
Benfica only shot on-net twice, per WhoScored, but scored both times.
Juventus Fail to Play the Full 90 Minutes
They started the game looking lethargic. They sent in crosses and long balls, and they veered offside.
But as they started to run, as the minutes ticked by, Juventus controlled more and more of the ball. They were dangerous with time.
Claudio Marchisio was not the best player on the pitch, but he caused some chaos in and around the box. Paul Pogba played a little deeper, but he too threw himself around. He was at first clumsy in the tackle and later strong on the ball.
They began to hunt for the equalizer as soon as they kicked off the second half, and Tevez eventually found the net. But then Juventus let up.
They invited Benfica to reclaim the lead—which they did.
No Luck on Corners and Not Enough Goals
Andrea Pirlo is fantastic—during the game he made a no-look pass that went 20 or 30 yards—but he could not hit a corner kick properly. The ball did not even clear the first defender.
There was no inspiration from those dead-ball situations, and Juventus lacked the magic that helped them win those close games in Serie A.
They have not scored more than two goals in a single match since February.
Juventus Unreliable Up Front
It is true that coach Antonio Conte does like to rotate his squad, and thus the strikers. But only two goals have come from forwards in seven Europa League matches, the rest scored by midfielders and defenders.
Carlos Tevez only recently broke his European scoring curse in this match, and Dani Osvaldo scored the other in this tournament. Fernando Llorente has managed just two goals in Europe overall this season, while Sebastian Giovinco has none.
Then there is Mirko Vucinic, who makes some pretty passes but does not do much else. He was incredibly disappointing alongside Tevez against Benfica. Vucinic has scored just twice this season in all competitions.
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