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Defender Fábio Coentrão paid tribute to the SL Benfica fans after a comprehensive 4-1 home defeat of PSV Eindhoven left his side on the brink of the UEFA Europa League semi-finals.
Goals from the Argentinian trio of Pablo Aimar, Eduardo Salvio – with two – and Javier Saviola set the Eagles up nicely for next Thursday's quarter-final return leg in the Netherlands. Coentrão said that restoring pride among the Lisbon club's supporters after losing the Liga title at home to FC Porto last weekend was equally paramount to the players.
"It was an important step towards the semi-finals," the 23-year-old left-back told UEFA.com. "It was an excellent game. We had to bounce back like this after the Porto game on Sunday, because to have a crowd of more than 60,000 after a defeat like that is incredible. Victories like this are our way of thanking the fans. They're fantastic. They're with us in good moments and bad."
Coentrão added that going all the way to the May final in Dublin was Benfica's aim, yet with FC Dynamo Kyiv or SC Braga looming in any semi-final, he refuses to get carried away. "I think Benfica can get to the final," the former Rio Ave FC player said. "We have worked hard for this, but we have to think step by step. As my team-mates say, we can't think about the final yet. We're in the quarter-finals and there's still one more game for us to get to the semis."
The Portuguese international believes that Saviola's 94th-minute strike, after Zakaria Labyad had pulled one back for the Dutch visitors, has made a huge difference. "Winning 4-1 in the end was very important, because when we were 3-0 up and they scored, we could have made things more complicated for ourselves," Coentrão said.
PSV's Wilfred Bouma backed up his adversary. "The last one killed us," the former Netherlands defender said. "When they made it 4-1, that made it very difficult. We had a little chance at 3-1, but now it's almost impossible."
However, Coentrão's team-mate Javi García sounded a word of caution. "In this competition, you can never say you have a result that puts everything in your favour," said the midfielder. "We know that we have an opportunity, with a good advantage for the second leg. We have to realise there are difficult moments ahead, but the important thing is to score another goal."
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