SL Benfica and Fenerbahçe SK have only met once before, in the first round of the 1975/76 European Champion Clubs' Cup. For the Portuguese side, however, that encounter still holds happy memories even nearly 30 years on.
Benfica won 7-1 on aggregate thanks to a 7-0 first-leg triumph that remains Fenerbahçe's heaviest ever defeat in Europe. Former Portuguese international Nené, who holds the record appearances for Benfica at 802, was one of two hat-trick scorers that night on 17 September 1975, along with Rui Jordão. Still working for the club aged 63, Nené spoke to UEFA.com about that memorable match and facing Turkish opposition.
UEFA.com: What do you remember from the home match against Fenerbahçe?
Nené: They had a coach that was a great Brazilian star, Didi, a FIFA World Cup winner in 1958 and 1962. As the match approached he made some bombastic statements, saying that they would come to the Estádio da Luz and win. Of course, at that time we knew how powerful Benfica were and maybe those words also served as a bit of encouragement for us.
UEFA.com: And from the match in Turkey?
Nené: With the 7-0 win from the first match, of course we weren't expecting to lose, but the defeat was fair. No doubt that the Turkish fans are among the more passionate when it comes to supporting their team. We were shocked and it was hard to digest that defeat. Our concentration in Turkey might not have been the best.
UEFA.com: That 1975/76 season marked a change for Benfica and for you as well.
Nené: Yes, the 60s were times of luxury for Benfica as we won everything in Portugal and we did well in Europe as well. But times were changing as Eusébio, António Simões, Jaime Graça and Artur Jorge all left the club. We started with a new coach and new players, and even I wasn't a striker at that time, I used to play as a right-winger. When coach Mário Wilson arrived he tried me as a second striker with Jordão. His decision proved to be correct as I became what Benfica needed.
UEFA.com: Five years after Fenerbahçe you also faced another Turkish team …
Nené: Yes, in 1980/81 we played against Altay in the Cup Winners' Cup. As we predicted, the match in Turkey was very difficult, with the home crowd making a lot of noise. We managed a goalless draw and then at the Estádio da Luz we easily won 4-0 – I scored one of the goals.
UEFA.com: What are your memories of Benfica's run to the 1982/83 UEFA Cup final?
Nené: Benfica were very strong under [Sven-Göran] Eriksson. He gave a lot of confidence and freedom to the players. [Quarter-final opponents] Roma were a very strong team that everybody feared, with Falcão, [Bruno] Conti, [Carlo] Ancelotti. However, we managed to surprise them in the first leg in Rome, where we won 2-1, and went through with a 1-1 at home. We also had two very difficult games against Craiova in the semi-finals. We draw 0-0 at home and, when everyone was thinking that we couldn't qualify, we drew 1-1 in Romania to go through on away goals.
In the final Anderlecht were at that time one of the best teams in Europe, very strong, powerful, and combative. We lost 1-0 in Belgium and we didn't deserve to. In the home match we scored first but perhaps due to some European inexperience from our players, because it was Benfica's first final after the five European Champion Clubs' Cup finals of the 60s, we couldn't win the trophy. Perhaps we weren't mature enough.
UEFA.com: What are your predictions for the semi-final between Benfica and Fenerbahçe?
Nené: It's an unpredictable semi-final but I think the Benfica players have no fear of anyone at the moment. That's very important because it allows them to do their best on the pitch even when they are not playing so well. Even when Benfica don't play so well, they keep on winning. I'm sure the match in Turkey will be very difficult but I dare to say they will go through. Benfica are on a high at the moment and can win at any stadium, even with the infernal atmosphere at Fenerbahçe.
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