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BATE run aground as Eagles soar

FC BATE Borisov 1-2 SL Benfica
The Portuguese side secured qualification and guaranteed top spot in Group I while ending their Belarussian hosts' hopes of progress.

Benfica celebrate in Borisov
Benfica celebrate in Borisov ©Getty Images

SL Benfica secured progress to the knockout stages as Group I winners with a game to spare thanks to a 2-1 victory at FC BATE Borisov that ended their Belarussian hosts' own last-32 aspirations.

Saviola opener
After a scoreless first half, Javier Saviola punctured the home side's resistance within a minute of the restart. Fábio Coentrão's composed strike extended the advantage and ensured Benfica went through, with Everton second in the group, though Miguel Vítor's 68th-minute own goal set up a tense finish.

Krivets influence
Óscar Cardozo had the first opening in the 15th minute but failed to connect adequately while the hosts' initial chance came to nothing when Sergei Sosnovski's looping header from a Sergei Krivets free-kick dropped wide. Krivets's next set-piece was more threatening as he struck the crossbar from 20 metres with Maksim Bordachov firing a presentable follow-up into the side-netting.

Flowing move
The second half, in contrast to the first, commenced in spectacular fashion with a wonderful opening goal. The move of the match began with Coentrão's back-heel releasing Felipe Menezes and the midfielder burst to the byline before cutting back for Saviola to sweep in. The link between Krivets' free-kick and Sosnovski nearly prompted an immediate response only for the defender to forget his lines with only goalkeeper Júlio César to beat.

Successful combination
Coentrão turned from architect to assassin on 63 minutes when he exchanged passes with Saviola and drilled a clinical finish across Sergei Veremko to give the Eagles breathing space. That buffer proved vital as Viktor Goncharenko's charges replied five minutes later. It proved to be third time lucky for the Krivets-Sosnovski combination as the former's deep corner was headed back across goal by the defender and Miguel Vítor unwittingly headed past his own keeper. Jorge Jesus's men, however, rarely looked like squandering their lead.