SL Benfica claimed a narrow win against 1. FC Nürnberg in their first game in this season's UEFA Cup.
Ariza Makukula's first-half strike was enough for victory in this Round of 32 first leg even though the Bundesliga side controlled much of the match. This was despite playing their first game under new coach Thomas von Heesen, who replaced Hans Meyer on Tuesday, and being without midfielders Zvjezdan Misimović, Marek Mintál and striker Angelos Charisteas.
Against run of play
Indeed, Nürnberg began more positively than their hosts and their first chance came on 14 minutes when Benfica keeper Quim cleared Nicky Adler's attempt. The Lisbon club, who came into the tie after finishing third in their UEFA Champions League group, struggled to mount any sort of attack in the first 40 minutes as the away defence stood firm. That made Makukula's goal two minutes before the break all the more surprising. Rui Costa worked his way through the Nürnberg defence, passing to Makukula, who dribbled forward before unleashing a 20-metre effort that bounced over the outstretched right leg of keeper Jaromír Blažek.
The second half was a tight affair and it was not until the 64th minute that the next opening came. Benfica substitute Angel Di María picked up the ball after a stray pass and made headway down the left wing before his cross was intercepted by Berti Glauber just as Nuno Assis was about to pull the trigger. The German team, 16th in their domestic league, were missing their creative midfielders yet still carved out a chance in the 74th minute when Marco Engelhardt's looping shot from the left forced Quim to tip over. Nürnberg had another opportunity three minutes later but Luisão cleared Jan Kristiansen's centre just before Jan Koller could pounce near the goalline. The action resumes in Germany on 21 February.
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