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Benfica issue early warning

Midfielder Javi García felt SL Benfica had offered a statement of intent by beating Group I rivals Everton for the second time in a fortnight. "Few teams play the football we play," he said.

Óscar Cardozo celebrates scoring for Benfica
Óscar Cardozo celebrates scoring for Benfica ©Getty Images

SL Benfica's Spanish midfielder Javi García said the Eagles had offered a serious statement of intent by beating Group I rivals Everton for the second time in a fortnight.

Jorge Jesus's side need only a point from their trip to FC BATE Borisov on 2 December to make sure of a last-32 place and García is tipping them to go much further after they secured another impressive victory over their closest rivals in the group. Two weeks after defeating Everton 5-0 at the Estádio da Luz, Benfica completed a convincing double over the Merseysiders to move three points clear of them.

'High level'
García said: "We're at a very high level, there are few teams who play the football we play and we hope that by working hard we can go as far as possible. In this group Everton and ourselves are perhaps the two strongest teams. We put five past them at home and now two here and this shows the team is working really well. We've been together three months now and are playing at a high level, if we continue at this level we can get even better and go very far in the competition."

'A good job'
Jesus's men absorbed Everton's first-half pressure and, after Óscar Cardozo headed against a post just before the break, they went for the jugular after the restart, picking holes in the Everton defence and taking full advantage with goals from Javier Saviola and Cardozo. "In the first half we didn't have a lot of clear chances but in the second we opened the game up and created gaps and took full advantage of our opportunities," García added. "There were a lot of high balls in the first half and they were wary of our counterattacks but in the second half their level dropped a bit and there was more space to play in. We had two or three counterattacks, we had more possession and we did a good job."

It was the perfect way for Benfica to bounce back from their first Portuguese Liga loss of the campaign at SC Braga last weekend and showcased the attacking quality of a team with 30 goals in nine Liga outings and now nine in four in the UEFA Europa League. Besides goalscorers Saviola and Cardozo, winger Ángel Di María was only denied a goal by a brilliant save from Tim Howard and Benfica coach Jesus even had the luxury of keeping Pablo Aimar on the bench until the 61st minute – 120 seconds before Saviola's opener. "The team works very hard on the tactical aspect and then we have players up front who can make the difference," García said. "Both in attack and defence the team is doing a great job."