Alan Kardec's stoppage-time winner sent shockwaves through the Stade Vélodrome as it booked SL Benfica a berth in the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals, but according to the match-winner at least one man had seen it all coming – his coach Jorge Jesus.
The Eagles' boss sent Kardec into the fray with four minutes left and the match heading towards extra time after Maxi Pereira had rapidly responded to Mamadou Niang's 70th-minute opener for Olympique de Marseille. Those goals left the tie completely level on aggregate following last week's 1-1 draw in Lisbon, but as the OM faithful began steeling themselves for an additional half an hour of tension, Kardec rifled into the far corner from a Pablo Aimar free-kick to complete a memorable comeback victory.
"The goal I scored was important for me and the team," said Kardec, the 21-year-old striker still finding his feet at Benfica after joining from Brazilian outfit CR Vasco da Gama in the winter. "It was a special moment. The coach told me before I went on: 'You're going to go out there and score a goal.' It turned out he was right. We had trouble against Marseille and conceded in the second half, but the important thing is that we bounced back. Marseille are a good side and difficult opponents, but the result was fair tonight."
Another player delighted with the outcome was centre-back David Luiz, perhaps mindful that the winners of the final two editions of the UEFA Cup – FC Zenit St. Petersburg in 2008 and FC Shakhtar Donetsk last year – both ousted Marseille on their way to lifting the trophy. "It was a tough match and we had trouble getting going, but now I think we have the quality to go all the way to the final," he said.
The 21-year-old was pleased too that his team managed to seal their progress within 90 minutes, given that they meet FC Porto in the Portuguese League Cup final in Faro on Sunday. "We'll get some rest and recover," he added. "We're going to be flying directly to Faro from here so that we'll be fresher."
The beaten hosts also have important games on the horizon, starting with Sunday's match against Ligue 1 title rivals Olympique Lyonnais, but goalscorer Niang was in no mood to look that far ahead. "I'm disappointed, gutted and full of frustration," he said. "We'll have to digest this setback tonight and concentrate on Lyon tomorrow. Right now I'm too disappointed to think about anything else.
"After we scored, we totally stopped playing when we should have been keeping hold of the ball," he added. "We let Benfica back into the game, when that goal really should have finished them off. The fact that I scored is no consolation. A 0-0 draw would have been enough to send us through and would have made me a lot happier."
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