How Benfica beat Atlético Madrid
Thursday, October 1, 2015
After watching Benfica come from behind to win 2-1 at Atlético Madrid, match reporter Joseph Walker reflects on a visiting performance that Diego Simeone might himself have admired.
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Benfica produced a clinical display to put Atlético Madrid to the sword and condemn the Spanish outfit to only their second loss in their last 25 UEFA competition games at the Vicente Calderón.
The Rojiblancos had not tasted defeat at home in Europe since February 2013, but were undone 2-1 by a combination of assuredness and doggedness demonstrated by Rui Vitoria's side, the kind of which Diego Simeone himself would have been proud.
Goals win games
Since Atlético's last defeat, the likes of AC Milan, Barcelona and Juventus have all come away from the Calderón beaten, while Chelsea and Real Madrid could each only achieve 0-0 draws.
Indeed, the last time Atlético had conceded in Europe at the Calderón was in March 2014 during their 4-1 defeat of Milan. Following Ángel Correa's opener after 23 minutes it seemed as if victory would be a formality for the home side.
However a host of missed opportunities – most notably from Correa himself and Jackson Martínez – kept the visitors in the game and they made Atlético pay as Nicolás Gaitán stunned the crowd with a drilled effort ten minutes before half-time.
With Atlético seemingly still in a daze after the break, Benfica pressed home their advantage to score with only their second shot on target through Gonçalo Guedes and take control of Group C.
Ride the storm
It would have been easy for Benfica to lie down and accept their fate, especially with the home crowd bouncing. Atlético won 12 corners to the visitors' one, notched up 22 attempts compared to five and had 55% possession, yet Rui Vitória's men defended doggedly and rode the storm.
"Their crowd started to get behind their side, but we have our fans and they help us a lot," said Gaitán. "We drew level and then we were able grab a second on the counter. We could have had more, but we also knew how to suffer, which is part of football."
While Atlético fought after going behind, it was almost as if Benfica's plan of catching them on the break took the wind out of their sails as they ran out of time and ideas.
Gaitán the man
"We came to a ground that Atlético have turned into a very strong place in the last few years, but we know what we have and what we can and cannot do," the Argentinian international said. He was perhaps doing himself a disservice.
A threat every time he touched the ball, the 27-year-old was the game's standout player. After showing excellent skill and technique to fire the ball past Jan Oblak to level, it was he who led the counter charge after the break.
Picking the ball up from Eliseu on the halfway line, Gaitán drove down the left-hand side before showing remarkable composure to turn inside Diego Godín, lift his head up and play a perfect through ball for Gonçalo Guedes to apply the finish.
A glimpse of the future
Wonderkids Ángel Correa and Gonçalo Guedes both registed their first UEFA Champions League goals and each have reason to be pleased with their performances.
Making his first start for Atlético, Correa underwent heart surgery last year before officially being unveiled in the summer. After a number of impressive cameo appearances, Simeone put his faith in his countryman and was repaid after just 23 minutes.
In truth the 20-year-old might have had another goal, but his loss was Guedes's gain. Two years Correa's junior at 18, the attacker bagged his first goal for Benfica at the weekend and followed it up with another on the biggest stage of all. Remember the names.