There was little to choose between Hertha BSC Berlin and SL Benfica, two sides with such contrasting domestic form, as a 1-1 draw left this UEFA Europa League Round of 32 tie in the balance ahead of Tuesday's return.
Jorge Jesus's charges, top of the Portuguese Liga, made the ideal start when Angel Di María swept them into a fourth-minute lead. Yet Bundesliga basement side Hertha conjured a spirited response and were good value for their equaliser as Javi García put through his own net just after the half-hour mark.
Benfica won five of their six group-stage matches and they were quick to carry on that form in the knockout stages. Carlos Martins drove a long pass in behind Łukasz Piszczek for Di María to latch on to, and the forward cut across the path of his marker before wrong-footing Jaroslav Drobný with his finish.
Friedhelm Funkel's men struggled to halt the momentum until they were handed a fortuitous equaliser on 33 minutes. Cícero released Piszczek on the right and his low cross was diverted into his own goal by Javi García, with Júlio César just failing to halt the ball at his near post. Luisão's free header, planted straight at Drobný, then threatened to nudge the visitors back in front before half-time, to which Hertha responded with a concerted spell of pressure after the break.
The hosts should have completed the turnaround on 55 minutes when Patrick Ebert's deep cross was side-footed against the upright by Maximilian Nicu, while Raffael's drive demanded a smart save from Júlio César at his near post. Benfica regrouped, and could have prised victory late on when Óscar Cardozo's header was well saved by Drobný.
©UEFA.com 1998-2017. All rights reserved.