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Stylish Eagles soar over Hertha hurdle

SL Benfica 4-0 Hertha BSC Berlin
Óscar Cardozo scored twice as the Portuguese Liga leaders impressed on their way to becoming the first team through to the last 16.

Stylish Eagles soar over Hertha hurdle
Stylish Eagles soar over Hertha hurdle ©UEFA.com

SL Benfica have become the first team through to the last 16 of the UEFA Europa League, continuing their impressive route through the competition with another sparkling home performance.

Last Thursday's 1-1 draw in Germany had left Hertha BSC Berlin able to dream of progress, but the Bundesliga's bottom club were comfortably beaten in Lisbon. The Portuguese Liga leaders had struck 13 times in their previous four European home games and carried on the trend with Pablo Aimar showing the way after 25 minutes. The real damage was done after the restart, however, with two Óscar Cardozo efforts either side of a Javi García goal setting up a meeting with either FC København or Olympique de Marseille.

Nowhere near their fluent best in the German capital, Benfica quickly camped themselves in their opponents half upon resuming acquaintances, with only a snap downpour interrupting their early rhythm. Their focus soon returned, though, and after attempts from the dangerous Angel Di María and García their pressure finally told, Aimar collecting a pass from Javier Saviola on the edge of the area, surging past Arne Friedrich and stroking the ball low beyond Jaroslav Drobný.

Hertha had barely existed as an attacking force up to that point, but they threatened an unlikely leveller when Raffael nearly swerved a shot past Júlio César from wide on the right. The bulk of the chances were still falling at the opposite end, and though Saviola saw out the first half by turning Maxi Pereira's cross on to the bar, Cardozo christened the second by heading in a superb Di María service.

Javi García then fired the tie beyond the visitors, lashing the ball in following a partially cleared Aimar corner. Benfica were not finished there and three minutes later Di María and Cardozo combined again for the Paraguayan's sixth strike in the tournament this term. While he will crave more, Hertha must now concentrate on staving off relegation.