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Zahovic seals Benfica progress

KSK Beveren 0-3 SL Benfica Zlatko Zahovic strikes twice to send the Lisbon side through as Beveren crash out.

Benfica comfortably secured their passage from UEFA Cup Group G after overcoming a spritely but inexperienced KSK Beveren side at the Freethiel stadium.

Red card
Simão Sabrosa’s early penalty and two simple finishes by Zlatko Zahovic wrapped up the points as the Portuguese side went top of the group against their young opponents who were down to ten men for almost the whole match.

Early blow
Home goalkeeper Boubacar Barry was sent off after upending Azar Karadas in the area after just three minutes, and when Simão stroked the penalty past substitute Davino Verhulst, the writing was already on the wall for the home side who had conceded eleven goals in their first two group G games. Karadas then had two great chances to make it two, first from Simão's pull-back, and then heading over from Manuel Dos Santos's cross after more good work by the goalscorer.

Lead doubled
Zahovic, sensing Beveren's vulnerability, was next to be frustrated, watching his stretching effort bobble just wide on 18 minutes. But the Slovenian midfield player only had to wait another three minutes to get his goal, running on to Bruno Aguiar's pass after Karadas's sharp dummy, and slotting it past Verhulst.

Disallowed effort
Benfica continued to press and Karadas curled another shot wide before Verhulst did well to shut out Zahovic's stooping header, Luisão tapping home the rebound only for the referee's assistant to rule him offside.

Beveren spirit
Beveren did show some glimpses of their attacking quality, with Mohamed Diallo and Moussa Sanogo both looking sharp. And on 25 minutes, Sanogo provided José Moreira with his only real test, cheekily squeezing in a shot from a tight angle. But it was normal service just after the half-hour, Karadas and Simão going close before Verhulst pulled off an astonishing reflex save to deny Zahovic his second.

Killer third
After the break, Sanogo went within a whisker of connecting with the darting Diallo's right-wing cross on 51 minutes. But it was Benfica who struck next. The home side appealed for offside as Aguiar found the unmarked Zahovic in front of goal on 59 minutes, but the Slovenian had just remained onside and he tucked it home to seal the victory.

Hosts persistent
Still the home side refused to roll over. Sanogo and the attack-minded defender Emmanuel Eboué both went close after the hour, before the two somehow worked Beveren's best opportunity, the latter's deflected cross ending up among the Benfica fans after the striker had failed to turn the ball into an open goal.

Benfica through
The result means Beveren will finish bottom of Group G and propels Benfica, who have completed their campaign, into first place, although they must await the outcome of NK Dinamo Zagreb's trip to VfB Stuttgart on Matchday 5 before they can celebrate winning the group. Beveren, meanwhile, will make the short trip to SC Heerenveen with nothing but pride to play for.