SL Benfica moved within two points of the Group F summit after an explosive first-half performance earned them a convincing 3-1 victory over FC København.
There was no coming back for the Danish champions after goals from Léo and Fabrizio Miccoli (2) inside the opening 37 minutes established a winning advantage for Benfica. Although Marcus Allbäck netted an 89th-minute consolation, news of Celtic FC's clinching late strike against Manchester United FC did more to temper Benfica's celebrations given it means they must repeat last year's feat of defeating United on Matchday 6 - this time at Old Trafford - to seize a place in the UEFA Champions League's last 16.
UEFA Cup blow
For København, their third away loss in the competition consigns them to fourth place, ending their hopes of taking a UEFA Cup berth. However, Benfica, quarter-finalists last term, have sustained their challenge until Matchday 6 with this second successive victory at their Estádio da Luz fortress. And in doing so, they found the perfect response to last weekend's league reverse at SC Braga and the subsequent criticism of their efforts by club president Luís Filipe Vieira.
Benfica coach Fernando Santos had stressed the need for a high-tempo start from his team yet there was little indication of the impending goal rush in a muted opening ten minutes. Indeed, København created the game's first notable opportunity when Jesper Grønkjær's neat touch set up Atiba Hutchinson in a promising position but he shot wildly over.
Within 60 seconds of that miss, the visitors were a goal behind. For the first time in the match, Simão, surging forward down the left, got behind the København back line and fed Konstantinos Katsouranis. With his back to goal, the Greek teed up Léo and the Brazilian left-back drilled the ball low into the far corner for his first UEFA Champions League strike in the 14th minute. The away side were still recovering when Miccoli added the second two minutes later, collecting a Nuno Gomes pass and sweeping a low left-footed shot just inside the post.
Benfica were now rampant. Simão flashed a ball across goal which struck two København bodies yet somehow escaped past the far post. Brede Hangeland then cleared a Miccoli lob off the line and Katsouranis saw his follow-up blocked by Michael Gravgaard. København, with only one goal from their opening three outings, had a mountain to climb and although Allbäck found space to shoot low at Quim, the peak assumed Everest proportions following Benfica's third on 37 minutes. Nuno Gomes cut inside and tried his luck from the right of the area and when Jesper Christiansen failed to hold the ball, Miccoli pounced.
With Benfica sitting back after the break, København looked in vain for a way back into the tie. Gravgaard headed wide from a Hjalte Nørregaard free-kick but the closest they came was when captain Tobias Linderoth found the wrong side of the net with a well-flighted free-kick after 65 minutes. At the other end, Simão raced through via a one-two with Nuno Gomes but saw his effort smothered by Christiansen. Allbäck eventually recorded his, and Kobenhavn's, second goal in the competition with a minute remaining but for the tournament newcomers, the adventure was already over.