Benfica 2-0 Astana The Eagles were made to work hard by the debutants before Nicolás Gaitán and Kostas Mitroglou scored to ensure a victorious start in Group C.
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- Benfica condemn Astana to defeat on their group stage debut
- Nicolás Gaitán and Kostas Mitroglou find the net in the second half
- Astana hit the upright at 0-0 through substitute Aleksei Schetkin
- Next games: Atlético Madrid v Benfica, Astana v Galatasaray (30 September)
Nicolás Gaitán and Kostas Mitroglou scored in the second half as Benfica got another UEFA Champions League campaign off to a victorious start at the expense of obdurate debutants Astana.
Astana, though, were far from overawed by the fact they were acting as trailblazers for Kazakhstani football. Stepping out at the venue of the 2014 final, Stanimir Stoilov's side were content to cede possession to Benfica, defend in numbers and attempt to catch their experienced opponents on the break.
It was a tactic that worked for 51 minutes of the Group C contest. They negotiated the first half with little cause for alarm, their only moments of genuine concern coming when Jonas was twice thwarted by Nenad Erić, the second time after an unchallenged burst into the penalty area.
Stoilov introduced Aleksei Schetkin for lone striker Junior Kabananga at half-time, a change that almost paid off within a minute of the restart, the Astana No9 showing persistence to get in between Jardel and Luisão and poke an effort against Júlio César's right-hand post.
Benfica, however, made the breakthrough their domination of possession deserved, Gaitán surging onto Mitroglou's pass and driving a shot past Erić. The deadlock broken, Rui Vitória's men suddenly found chances a lot easier to fashion, the unmarked Mitroglou the next to threaten with a header from Nélson Semedo's cross.
Mitroglou atoned for that miss with the clinching second just after the hour. On target twice at the weekend, the Greek international stole in ahead of Dmitri Shomko to tap in Eliseu's low delivery across goal.
Rui Vitória, Benfica coach
Astana shut the door and we had problems finding space. In the second half we scored twice and overall managed to control the match. It's good to start at home with a win, which is very important. There's always some anxiety before matches such as this. We faced a team who wanted to surprise us and managed to restrict our space.
Stanimir Stoilov, Astana coach
I want to congratulate Benfica on the win. We played well, mainly in the first half, but in the second Benfica showed their level so we have to salute them. We played a bit defensively, but at home, being more attacking, I believe we can score.