Just back from injury, SL Benfica striker Nuno Gomes wants glory in the UEFA Cup.
By Rui Matos Pereira
Portuguese international Nuno Gomes marked his return from injury by scoring SL Benfica's first goal at their new Estádio da Luz. As the Lisbon club prepare to meet Molde FK in the UEFA Cup second round on Thursday, they will hope the striker's golden touch is back for good.
Nuno Gomes had been troubled by an ankle injury for the last five months, but as he told uefa.com, the decision to have surgery on the problem may have been the best of his career. "It was my first major injury and I hope it will be my last," he said. "But I am now fully fit and am optimistic about the future."
Eager for action
Now he is back on the right side of the touchline, Nuno Gomes is eager for action. And with Molde the next visitors to the Luz, the centre-forward knows that defeat is not an option. "We have managed to reach the second round which is very important, especially after we were unable to achieve our main objective - the [UEFA] Champions League - after losing in qualifying to [S.S.] Lazio," he said.
"Now the aim is to go as far as we can, for the honour of the club and the country," he added. "Benfica have been absent from European competition for two seasons, so being back among the top teams is very good for the players."
While he feels the Eagles are favourites against Molde, Nuno Gomes was wary of sounding overconfident. "Benfica can beat Molde if the team has the right level of inspiration and stays focused," he said. "If we can't beat Molde it will be our fault as I think we have a better team than them."
Success in Europe would help the Lisbon club forget their domestic disappointments - they already trail reigning champions FC Porto by eleven points in the SuperLiga. "We have not been playing that badly, but we have been lacking concentration at crucial moments," he said. "We have to work hard to close the gap on Porto."
The Luz stadium opened with Nuno Gomes scoring both Benfica goals in a 2-1 friendly win against Uruguay's Club Nacional de Football. "It was one of those moments you never forget," he said. "But when I scored I was not thinking of the importance of that particular moment. Now I am happy and proud at having my name in the stadium's history."
While he has all but given up on the Portuguese title, Nuno Gomes wants to impress in Europe as he bids to cement his place in Luiz Felipe Scolari's squad for UEFA EURO 2004™. "It is my only goal with the national side," he said.
And should Portugal reach the final of a competition they are hosting next summer, Nuno Gomes will also be looking for a goal at the Luz to add to his strikes which christened the famous stadium.