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Stylish Benfica put an end to Leverkusen

SL Benfica 2-1 Bayer 04 Leverkusen (agg: 3-1)
A lovely Ola John strike paved the way for the Eagles, with André Schürrle and Nemanja Matić trading goals at the end of an enthralling encounter.

Stylish Benfica put an end to Leverkusen
Stylish Benfica put an end to Leverkusen ©UEFA.com

SL Benfica advanced to the UEFA Europa League round of 16 at the expense of Bayer 04 Leverkusen in a thrilling match, despite a determined attacking effort from the visitors.

Leading 1-0 from the first leg in Germany, the hosts went ahead against the run of play with an Ola John wonder goal, before the excellent André Schürrle levelled the scores on the night. Nemanja Matić's header shortly after settled it, with Jorge Jesus's side through to face FC Girondins de Bordeaux in two weeks' time.

Leverkusen quickly served notice of their intent with Artur producing a strong parry in the third minute to repel a fierce Schürrle volley from the edge of the area. After 12 minutes, they came even closer when Stefan Kiessling sidefooted Daniel Carvajal's cross past the goalkeeper, but the ball came back off the post.

The Lisbon outfit began to control possession in their trademark style, yet Sascha Lewandowski's team remained dangerous, especially on the counter. Schürrle was again denied by Artur after a defensive mix-up, before his unlucky night continued when he cut in and rifled a shot against the upright.

Kiessling had a goal chalked off for offside early in the second half, and the Eagles needed inspiration. They got it on the hour from Dutch winger Ola John. The 20-year-old peeled off to the left and dribbled inside, past Gonzalo Castro and Carvajal, before curling a delightful strike into the top corner of the net.

The Bundesliga club hit back, but the irrepressible Artur made excellent stops from captain Simon Rolfes and Schürrle – again – in quick succession. Schürrle finally got his due reward 15 minutes from the end when he fired substitute Arkadiusz Milik's knockdown home. However, Leverkusen's hope was instantly snuffed out, Matić smartly heading in substitute Lima's cross to seal matters.