SL Benfica midfielder Javi García has warned Liverpool FC that his team will be "difficult to eliminate" after fighting their way back from behind to post a narrow 2-1 advantage at the halfway point of their UEFA Europa League quarter-final.
As the dust settled on an intense, engaging encounter, the Portuguese Liga leaders had to look beyond the euphoria of their second-half turnaround and start calculating how much work remains to be done at Anfield next Thursday.
Óscar Cardozo gave them victory with two penalties after the break, but Liverpool boast an away goal courtesy of Daniel Agger's deft ninth-minute flick and restricted the damage impressively after losing Ryan Babel to a red card with just half an hour gone. "A 0-0 draw would work for us in the second leg, but it will be a different match and I'm sure they will attack even more than they did here," Javi García said.
"Still, we have shown we can score in any stadium and we all believe in what we're doing. It will be very difficult to eliminate us.
The fact we came from behind today is perfect proof we never throw in the towel. Whatever the circumstances, this team gives a good response and stays focused."
Indeed, having fought back in the final 15 minutes to oust Olympique de Marseille in France last time out, this win provided another indication that Jorge Jesus's men can rise to any challenge on the European stage. "The team always believed victory was possible, even when we conceded the early goal," Javi García added. "We came back with all our force, looking to score, and showed we are very confident, have great morale and try to win every match. Being at this club obliges you to win every competition you enter."
One player who had more to do with Benfica's triumph than most was Angel Di María. The wide player again proved an influential figure with his laser-guided deliveries and sparked the winner when Jamie Carragher was adjudged to have handled his cross.
We'll have to work as hard as we did here over there to seal qualification, and that won't be easy at all," said the Argentina international. "[Liverpool] will start strongly in the second leg and they'll give their all to win, but I'm sure we'll stay very calm, as we did in Marseille. Hopefully we'll go through to the next round."
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