Óscar Cardozo struck twice from the spot as SL Benfica came from behind to triumph 2-1 in their UEFA Europa League quarter-final opener against ten-man Liverpool FC.
Daniel Agger gave Rafael Benítez's men an excellent start in Lisbon but the Merseyside outfit were soon on the back foot and were rocked when Ryan Babel was dismissed following an altercation with Luisão on the half-hour. Liverpool's resistance was admirably stout at times, but Óscar Cardozo's second-half double leaves them needing victory at Anfield next Thursday.
What had looked set to be a cagey contest was given an explosive jolt after just nine minutes as Steven Gerrard won a free-kick to the left of Benfica's area. Completely wrong-footing the home side's defence, the England midfielder slipped in a low ball for Agger to flick in deliciously.
Shocked by that early blow, Benfica quickly roused themselves, with Angel Di María the orchestrator and both Óscar Cardozo and Ramires unable to make the most of his promptings. Taking matters into his own hands, Di María then rifled narrowly over and screwed another shot wide, either side of Babel's red card.
Fernando Torres had an effort ruled out for offside as Liverpool enjoyed a rare chance, but Javi García promptly went close at the other end before Reds defender Emiliano Insúa collected a yellow card that rules him out of the second leg. Benfica maintained their pressure in the second period and after Óscar Cardozo failed to convert two more pinpoint Di María balls, the powerful striker took his competition tally to eight goals with a pair of penalties.
The first came after his own free-kick had rebounded off a post to Aimar, who was felled by Insúa, and just as Liverpool's spirit seemed set to earn them a draw – with Torres even missing a great opening on the break – Jamie Carragher was penalised for handball. The Paraguay striker finished in fine style on both occasions.
©UEFA.com 1998-2017. All rights reserved.