FC Shakhtar Donetsk's hopes of progressing from the UEFA Champions League group stage for the first time received a major boost as Jadson's first-half goal earned three points at SL Benfica.
The Brazilian midfielder combined with compatriot Fernandinho for the only goal of the game three minutes before half-time as the Ukrainian side weathered strong pressure from the home team to record a second successive Group D win. Shakhtar lead the section with maximum points ahead of their double-header against holders AC Milan while Benfica, who have lost twice, will attempt to get back on track against Celtic FC on Matchday 3.
Benfica had the first chance after three minutes, visiting keeper Andriy Pyatov diving low to his right to push Cristián Rodríguez's shot around the post. After the resulting corner was only half-cleared, Konstantinos Katsouranis headed over from Rui Costa's curling cross. Cristiano Lucarelli then had Shakhtar's first sight of goal, firing just wide of Quim's near post after Benfica had failed to clear Shakhtar's second corner in quick succession. Mircea Lucescu's men were having plenty of joy down the right and Răzvan Raţ's low strike was safely handled by Quim after Lucarelli had combined well with Jadson.
Benfica then went even closer. Angel Di María played a one-two with Óscar Cardozo and unleashed a rasping left-foot shot that hit the crossbar with Pyatov beaten; moments later Katsouranis steered the ball into the side-netting after racing on to Rodríguez's superb diagonal pass, with the goalkeeper again helpless. Yet when the opening goal did arrive, in the 42nd minute, it came at the other end: Fernandinho latched on to Raţ's pass and, after drawing Quim, found Jadson who struck the ball high into the net past two defenders on the line.
Benfica's problems deepened immediately as right-back Nélson was replaced by Nuno Gomes, having been injured in the build-up to the goal, although the Lisbon outfit continued to press with Katsouranis threatening an equaliser before the interval. Boosted by their unexpected advantage, however, Shakhtar kicked off the second half confidently with Brandão twice coming close.
End to end
Although Luisão wasted a golden opportunity to equalise, heading wide after beating Pyatov to Rui Costa's corner, the away side continued to create danger with Quim being forced to tip over Lucarelli's curling free-kick. Di María directed a long-range header just too high at the other end, yet Shakhtar were now controlling proceedings with their slick passing, and Darijo Srna nearly extended their lead when nodding over Brandão's centre with Quim at full stretch.
Benfica's rivals continued to spurn chances to clinch the points as a swift counterattack unlocked the home defence once more, Fernandinho inadvertently blocking a shot from the hesitating Brandão before the latter rounded Quim only to blaze over. By contrast, José Antonio Camacho's charges were struggling to create openings with their earlier frequency, although Cardozo and Katsouranis both failed to convert presentable opportunities in the last 20 minutes as the Eagles' hopes faded.
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