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SL Benfica took a tentative step towards their third UEFA Europa League quarter-final appearance in four seasons with a narrow victory against a determined FC Girondins de Bordeaux team.
Goalkeeper Cédric Carrasso's unlucky 21st-minute own goal proved the difference, but the French side's coach Francis Gillot will have seen enough to suggest his charges can respond at the Stade Chaban-Delmas in a week's time.
Bordeaux claimed a draw on their previous visit to Benfica in October 1986, yet the home side had the bulk of the early opportunities. Rodrigo, 22 yesterday, had an early header saved by Carrasso and then sliced across goal from an angle after strike partner Óscar Cardozo's delightful cross.
The visitors moved the ball tidily in midfield and nearly conjured the most bizarre of openers on the quarter-hour mark, Nicolas Maurice-Belay's through ball evading Ludovic Obraniak and Artur before rolling agonisingly into the side netting.
Despite that chance, it was Benfica who made the breakthrough as Rodrigo found space to get a shot away just outside the area. The left-footed connection was sweet and, when it cannoned off the bar, the ball hit Carrasso on the way down and bounced into the net.
Gillot's side responded well, defying their patchy domestic form with another hearty European performance. Only an impeccable challenge by Luisão denied Diego Rolán an equaliser after a slick passing move, and Artur had to be sharp to parry a well-struck effort from range by the lively Obraniak.
The second half was more circumspect. Rodrigo almost created a second for Cardozo, but Carrasso made a good diving save from the Paraguayan's lustily hit volley. The away side grew stronger as the match wore on, and only Artur's smart save from substitute Fahid Ben Khalfallah in the dying minutes preserved Benfica's lead as the tie heads to south-west France.
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