Two unanswered first-half goals ensured SL Benfica made a winning start to the UEFA Europa League against FC BATE Borisov in Group I.
Nuno Gomes deftly clipped Benfica in front on 36 minutes and the Eagles were soaring soon after when their captain played a chipped assist to Óscar Cardozo who finished with equal aplomb. Júlio César was equal to the few chances BATE had on his full debut in the home goal, and will expect a tougher night away to AEK Athens FC on 1 October. BATE entertain Everton FC, 4-0 victors against the Greek side, the same night.
Benfica had lost three of their previous five home matches in Europe and looked determined to improve that statistic against the Belarussian league leaders. Angel Di María's drilled effort from range drew a comfortable save from BATE goalkeeper Sergei Veremko after 15 minutes, although there was nothing routine about Júlio César's stop as he somehow repelled a header from Vitali Rodionov.
The game ignited in the 36th minute when Maxi Perreira, making his first start of the campaign after a summer knee injury, floated a cross to the far post to Nuno Gomes. The striker showed all his experience by expertly cushioning the ball on his chest before side-footing it across Veremko and into the opposite corner of the net.
The second on 40 minutes was also a tidy finish, Cardozo running on to Nuno Gomes's lofted pass after a neat move involving two other players and dispatching it with ease. Benfica failed to take a number of decent opportunities in the ten minutes after half-time to extend their lead, after which they sat back in the knowledge that their work was done.