Nuno Gomes scored twice as SL Benfica were forced to work hard before eventually overcoming SC Heerenveen at the Estádio da Luz in UEFA Cup Group G.
The game looked to be over when Nuno Gomes added to Manuel Dos Santos's scintillating effort to give Benfica a healthy lead just after the half hour. But Gertjan Verbeek's visiting team responded well and were level eight minutes into the second half, with Ugur Yildirim and the impressive Klaas Jan Huntelaar - a penalty - on target. The visitors looked to be set to take charge, but two goals on the counterattack, from substitute Azar Karadas, and then Nuno Gomes again, gave the Portuguese side three points.
Heerenveen goalkeeper Brian Vanderbussche replaced the injured Boy Waterman, but was left helpless for all four goals as Verbeek's young team missed the steadying influence of centre-back Said Bakkati. Heerenveen were also without the suspended Youssouf Hersi, while Benfica coach Giovanni Trapattoni was deprived of Eduardo Alcides, Mantorras and Carlitos through injury.
The game began at a frenetic pace and Dos Santos was first to strike in the 14th minute, opening the scoring with a beautiful lob after collecting a corner on the edge of the penalty area. Nuno Gomes then added a second just past the half-hour with a sumptuous volley on the edge of the area after Zlatko Zahovic had superbly flicked on a right-wing cross, and the Portuguese SuperLiga leaders looked set to run away with the match.
But Heerenveen always posed a threat, and had twice grazed the woodwork either side of Dos Santos's opener. The Dutch side committed more men forward after the break and quickly reduced the arrears with a textbook free-kick from Yildirim on 49 minutes. Four minutes later, the visitors were level after Ricardo Rocha handled in the area and another Dutch youngster, Huntelaar, smashed in the spot-kick.
The Dutch side were in the ascendancy, but Benfica worked their way back into the game. After Simão Sabrosa had missed a golden opportunity from Luisão's cross, Karadas, who appeared five minutes earlier as a 68th-minute substitute for Zahovic, ran on to a long ball and thundered a shot past Vanderbuussche to the jubilation of the home support.
Nuno Gomes then added a clinching fourth goal with 12 minutes remaining, and although both sides continued to attack the game finished 4-2. Benfica now travel to Germany to face VfB Stuttgart in a fortnight, while Heerenveen are at home to the same opponents in their next Group G fixture in four weeks' time.