Nemanja Matić heaped praise on SL Benfica's performance after a 1-0 victory at Bayer 04 Leverkusen put them in pole position to reach the UEFA Europa League round of 16. Despite being buoyed by the result against the Bundesliga's third-placed side, the midfielder was aware that the return leg could be "a very different story" and insisted his team must keep their feet firmly on the pedal. Leverkusen's Sidney Sam, having gone close to equalising in the dying seconds, remained confident, saying: "There is still everything to play for."
Nemanja Matić, Benfica midfielder
It is very difficult when you play away, especially against one of the best teams in Germany, but we just tried to play our football and we managed it.
I do not think we played on the counterattack, even though we scored from one. Overall we were the better team. We tried to give our best and I am happy because I think we can win, whatever the opponent. We are young, but that does not matter – you are either good enough or you're not, regardless of age. Every game is a different story and it will not be easy next week but, of course, in our home stadium and in front of our fans, we want to win.
Melgarejo, Benfica defender
It was a difficult game, but thankfully we got a very important goal. This win means we can go into the second leg with confidence. We deserved to win and worked hard for it. We have given ourselves a very good chance of reaching the next round, but a lot of work remains to be done – it will be an interesting match and we will have to prepare for it very well.
Sidney Sam, Leverkusen forward
It is naturally a disappointing result – a goalless draw would have been a lot better. We had chances to win but lacked that little bit of luck. Thankfully, we have a second chance in Portugal to put everything right. Benfica are a technically good side and we have to be careful, that we do not push too hard for the goal and leave ourselves exposed again. But I really believe there is everything still to play for.
Sascha Lewandowski, Leverkusen coach
Tonight we faced an opponent who played well, succeeding in taking the tempo out of the game. It was a strange 90 minutes for us, with lots of breakdowns in our play. They are a top European side and you have to expect these things. I am confident we could have gained a far better result had we responded differently to certain situations. We created chances and, had we taken them, it would be a different game next week.
Simon Rolfes, Leverkusen captain
Simply put, we did not take our chances. Just before they went ahead we had a fantastic chance, but we lost our concentration at the back and we were punished. We had a good phase late on and kept Benfica in their own half, but at some point you have to put the ball in the net. At this level of competition you do not get too many chances, but tonight we should have had enough to win the game. In the return match we have to look to our old strengths as we have shown in the Bundesliga this season – that we can be more efficient going forward.
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