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SL Benfica midfielder Javi García believes his team can travel to Germany with confidence next week despite only taking a slender 2-1 lead from the first leg of their UEFA Europa League round of 32 tie against VfB Stuttgart.
Trailing to Martin Harnik's first-half goal, Benfica responded after the break, drawing level through Óscar Cardozo after 70 minutes before Franco Jara's 81st-minute winner. The Lisbon club lost all three away games in the UEFA Champions League before Christmas but García pointed to their 2-1 victory at Olympique de Marseille in last term's round of 16, after a home draw in Lisbon, as proof that they could get a result at Stuttgart.
"Last season we showed against Marseille that we can win at any stadium and we will go for a result in Germany," the former Real Madrid CF player said. "We ended the match with the feeling that we could have achieved a bigger victory. But we gave a great effort against difficult opponents. They surprised us tactically at the start but we did not let Stuttgart attack in the second half."
Benfica have won all 14 matches played in 2011 but Stuttgart showed in the first half why, despite struggling in the Bundesliga, they had won five of their six group stage matches before Christmas. Nicolás Gaitán, whose cross set up the equaliser for Cardozo, said: "It was a hard game in the first half, but in the second we had many chances and we could have scored another goal. We did not do things well at first, but in the second half we started to show our football. Now we have to do our best to return from Germany with a win. The away goal they scored is important to them but we won, and that is the most important thing."
Stuttgart boast a seven-game unbeaten home run in Europe and Zdravko Kuzmanović was glad for the away goal Harnik provided after 21 minutes, which could prove valuable back in southern Germany. "Benfica produced a very good second half and for us it is very good that we scored a goal here," said the Serbian midfielder, a key figure for Stuttgart on his 50th European outing. "We were very compact in the first half but Benfica pressured a lot in the second and played very well. Now we hope to win the second leg and 1-0 is enough for us."
His colleague Cacau conceded that Benfica could have scored more, adding: "We were not able to maintain the same rhythm in the second half and Benfica are a great team on the attack. The upside is that we have an away goal that can be decisive. We must win now at home."
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