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Benfica debt to boys from Brazil

Published: Wednesday 22 February 2006, 9.37CET
SL Benfica's all-Brazilian rearguard proved more than a match for Liverpool FC's Spanish armada as one of their ranks, Luisão, scored the decisive goal.
by Adrian Harte & Onofre Costa
from Lisbon features

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Published: Wednesday 22 February 2006, 9.37CET

Benfica debt to boys from Brazil

SL Benfica's all-Brazilian rearguard proved more than a match for Liverpool FC's Spanish armada as one of their ranks, Luisão, scored the decisive goal.

For SL Benfica 1-0 Liverpool FC, read Brazil 1-0 Spain. The UEFA Champions League first knockout round first-leg match had been billed in the Portuguese press as clash of continents and fittingly Liverpool's Spanish goalkeeper was beaten from a header from Benfica'a Brazilian defender in the match's decisive moment.

Garcia tackle
Benfica's rearguard was all Brazilian - keeper Moretto, full-backs Alcides and Léo, centre-backs Luisão and Andersen and defensive midfielder Beto. Liverpool's Spanish influence extended from Rafael Benítez on the bench and José Manuel Reina, Xabi Alonso, Luís Garcia and Fernando Morientes on the Estádio da Luz pitch. Garcia's late tackle on Léo after just 29 seconds injected an early spark but until the Luisão header six minutes from time the match failed to catch fire.

Home comforts
Goalkeeper Moretto joined Benfica's Brazilian contingent in the recent transfer window and marked his UEFA Champions League debut with a win and a clean sheet. How did he feel as the last line of the Brazilian defence? He told "It is a coincidence, even when we play with a Portuguese defender we try as hard as ever and I feel confident with them in front of us, of course. But it is true that there were five Brazilians back there holding Liverpool and thank God it worked. And I hope the next time it can be the same as today.

Benfica heart
"The most important thing was victory to give us confidence. We should be praised for the heart we've shown in this match and it was very nice to mark my debut with a victory." Next up for Benfica is a vital Portuguese Liga match against leaders FC Porto; only then will the focus switch to the second leg at Anfield. "We've got a single goal advantage," Moretto continued. "We're first thinking of the next league match against Porto and then we'll concentrate fully on the second leg but it's possible that we might qualify at Anfield."

Late quirk
Moretto's compatriot and match-winner Luisão reflected on the curious coincidence that another 84th-minute winner last season had sealed a win against Sporting Clube de Portugal, and consequently the Portuguese league title. "I just thought about that - it's funny," he mused. This victory was not just about the goal; it was reward for all the team effort during the game, especially because of the difficult period we are going through. At crucial moments we demonstrated that we are a very strong unit."

Practice pays off
And Luisão revealed that his winner, a header from an excellent free-kick delivery from Petit, was the result of training ground practice. "We study these set-pieces," he continued. "They are very important in football and you have to have a few surprises prepared. We were fortunate enough to score in a scenario that [Benfica coach Ronald] Koeman had trained us for. I spoke to Petit before the free-kick, he then played in an excellent curling ball and I was lucky enough to be there at the right time."

Tie not over
However, he said he was well aware that the tie was not yet over, saying: "Anything can happen. We have great respect because we are playing against the European champions. We have taken an important step but in the away match everything starts all over again."

Last updated: 22/02/06 13.48CET

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