UEFA's Technical Observer panel breaks down the major factors behind Benfica's win against Juventus, analysing their key players, quick distribution and utilisation of the wings.
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Benfica booked their place in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League with an exciting 4-3 victory against Juventus on Matchday 5.
Roger Schmidt's side caught the eye with their speed and creativity, especially in the channels, as they kept pace with Paris Saint-Germain at the top of Group H with a third win in five matches – and eliminated Juventus in the process.
In this article brought to you by FedEx, UEFA's Technical Observers' panel shines a light on the attacking play of a Benfica side unbeaten in 20 games in all competitions since the start of the season.
1-0: António Silva (17)
This was the first senior goal by the 18-year-old centre-back. For his team, meanwhile, it was their first from a corner in the group stage but fourth overall if we include the qualifying rounds. It followed a short corner from the left by Enzo Fernández, who exchanged passes with João Mário before delivering an inswinging ball which Silva headed in at the near post.
1-1: Moise Kean (21)
On his first starting appearance in Group H, Kean struck his first Champions League goal since last December. From an outswinging corner by Filip Kostić, Danilo nodded the ball towards the far post, where the unmarked Dušan Vlahović saw his header stopped by the goalkeeper before Kean buried the rebound. It was Juventus's third goal from a corner this season, a tally matched only by Liverpool.
2-1: João Mário (28, pen)
After a handball decision against Juan Cuadrado, João Mário hit his third goal of the group stage, sending Wojciech Szczęsny the wrong way as he drove his spot kick high into the left side of the net.
3-1: Rafa Silva (35)
Moments after Vlahović had turned a Kostić cross wide of goal, Benfica extended their lead. Following the hosts' goal kick, Leonardo Bonucci headed the ball back to halfway, where Fredrik Aursnes, in the centre circle, fed it first time to Rafa Silva. In turn, the No27 worked it out to the right to João Mário and then ran to the near post to meet the ensuing low cross with a fabulous back-heel flick over Szczęsny.
4-1: Rafa Silva (50)
Benfica punished Bonucci for a loose ball out of defence as Alejandro Grimaldo made the interception – one of 17 by Schmidt's side, the most by any team on Matchday 5 – and slid the ball forward to Rafa, who highlighted his sky-high confidence with a cute lob over Szczęsny.
4-2: Arkadiusz Milik (77)
Moments after Rafa had almost scored a fifth Benfica goal with an off-target effort at one end, two substitutes combined at the other. Teenager Samuel Iling-Junior highlighted his impact – of which more later – by taking on Alexander Bah down the Juventus left and swinging a cross towards the penalty spot which Milik met with a precise, low volley on the turn.
4-3: Weston McKennie (79)
Iling-Junior was the architect once more, taking on Bah out wide and driving in another cross from the left. Goalkeeper Odysseas Vlachodimos fumbled the ball and although Matías Soulè's attempt was blocked, McKennie swivelled on the loose ball and rifled it in.
Player of the Match: Rafa Silva
The 29-year-old had scored the only goal at Porto in his previous appearance and he moved onto nine goals for the campaign with his double on Tuesday night. He could have had a hat-trick too but hit the goal frame after running clear in the closing minutes. The verdict of the UEFA observer said it all: "He scores goals, is always dangerous going forward, has good technique and is a leader."
Rafa Silva also looked to make things happen with his passing and, to illustrate this, he ranked joint-third for most passes in the final third this week – with a total of 28 and a completion rate of 85.2%. As a point of comparison, the other player to manage 28 passes in the final third on Matchday 5, his compatriot Bernardo Silva of Manchester City, finished with a completion rate of 79.3%.
From a starting formation of 4-2-3-1, Benfica switched to 4-4-2 without the ball, with Aursnes (8) and João Mário (20) dropping back while Rafa Silva (27) pressed the Juventus defenders alongside Gonçalo Ramos (88). When Benfica went on the attack – as we see in the graphic – they switched to a 4-2-4 with the wide forwards joining Rafa Silva and Gonçalo Ramos in a four-man front line.
The Italian side set up in a 3-5-2, which became a 5-3-2 when defending. In the five-man midfield, Manuel Locatelli (5) played a more defensive role. For creativity, they looked to the wing-backs Cuadrado (11) and Kostić (17). The Serbian was a threat with his speed and crossing ability, and he ended the week among the top ten players for most crosses with nine – seven of them from open play and five completed (a 55.6% completion rate).
Benfica's work on the flanks was a key feature of their performance according to the UEFA observer. The video above offers examples of how their full-backs would stay relatively low to draw the Juventus wing-backs out to press them, creating spaces behind which Aursnes and João Mário exploited to good effect.
The Lisbon side excelled at creating one-against-one situations, helped by their quick passing and changing of positions in the opposition half. The observer pointed to Aursnes' speed, strong running and 1v1 play, while on the other wing João Mário brought his experience and technical ability to bear.
Generally, after winning the ball, Benfica are a team who look to get it forward quickly, helped by having individuals with strong dribbling skills. On Tuesday, they did not just move the ball forward with pace but did so with impressive accuracy too, posting a pass completion rate of 86.2% in the attacking third. Only three teams finished with a higher percentage on Matchday 5: Manchester City, Bayern München and Sevilla.
Further back, the UEFA Technical Observer panel also noted the work of midfielder Fernández, who played a significant role by helping to determine the home team's rhythm with his tactical understanding and passing ability.
As for Juventus, they came back into the contest thanks to an injection of energy from their trio of teenaged substitutes, Fabio Miretti, Soulè and Iling-Junior. Chasing the game, they pushed forward and took more risks, with Iling-Junior, in particular, troubling the Benfica defence with his pace and willingness to run at defenders. In his 20 minutes on the pitch, the English youngster managed four open-play crosses – two of which led to goals.
The problem for Massimiliano Allegri's men was a first-half display in which they conceded three times, taking to eight the number of goals they have conceded in the first 45 minutes of matches in this season's group stage. They have paid a high price for it, with a first group stage exit since 2013/14.
Roger Schmidt, Benfica coach
"There is so much quality in this side, so much mental strength and team spirit. Without that, it wouldn't be possible to play for so long at this level. I appreciate what the players and fans are doing in the stadium. Today was a great day for Benfica.
"When he's in this mood, Rafa is a top player. He has everything needed to play at the highest level, as you saw from his goal to make it 3-1. If he's happy, he can play at this level. He needs to be in good spirits, feel welcome, and then he plays like he did today."
Massimiliano Allegri, Juventus coach
"More than the wrong approach, I think we were too soft in defence in the first half. We are disappointed and angry because we are out of the Champions League.
"We made too many mistakes tonight, but it's not useful to talk about that now. I'm happy for the youngsters; they all played well with the mental energy and the technique we needed in that part of the game."