UEFA.com works better on other browsers
For the best possible experience, we recommend using Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

Benfica break UEFA Youth League final hoodoo

Having reached, and lost in, three of the first seven finals, Benfica put it right in style to triumph in the eighth edition.

Benfica became champions at last in 2022
Benfica became champions at last in 2022 SPORTSFILE

Benfica had been the nearly team of the UEFA Youth League, losing the first final of 2014, and two more in 2017 and 2020.

But when the competition returned after a year's absence due to COVID-19, Benfica put that right in some style, especially with two spectacular games in the Nyon finals.

The early stages had their share of excitement, with all but one of the groups going to the final matchday, including both Paris Saint-Germain and Sporting CP overturning two-goal deficits to win their deciders. Real Madrid and Atlético both kept up their records of getting past the group stage every season.

Final highlights: Salzburg 0-6 Benfica

Meanwhile, debutants Deportivo La Coruña attracted the two biggest ever crowds in the domestic champions path, retrieving a 3-0 first-leg deficit to beat Pogoń Szczecin in their first round game.

Deportivo lost on penalties to Dynamo Kyiv in the play-offs, when Borussia Dortmund won the tie of the round 5-3 at Empoli. Dortmund also got past the round of 16 on penalties at Manchester United, among four shoot-outs in a stage when Atlético won 3-2 to oust the holders in a Madrid derby.

Benfica reached a record-equalling sixth quarter-final and cruised through a Lisbon derby 4-0 at Sporting CP. Salzburg came from behind to beat Paris Saint-Germain, Atlético won at Dortmund in front of nearly 20,000 fans and Juventus saw off Liverpool.

Semi-final highlights: Juventus 2-2 Benfica (3-4 pens)

That made Juve only the second Italian team to reach the four-team Nyon finals after Roma in 2014/15. They fell 2-0 down to Benfica early on, Martim Neto having got the fastest ever finals goal, but after Eagles goalkeeper Samuel Soares was dismissed, Juventus rallied and two spectacular goals forced penalties. Soares's replacement André Gomes was Benfica's hero with two saves, ensuring they equalled Chelsea's record of reaching four finals.

There was less drama in the second semi-final as 2016/17 champions Salzburg cruised to a 5-0 win against Atlético, inspired by Roko (son of Dario) Šimić. That was the biggest ever semi-final victory, but Salzburg were to be on the wrong end of an even larger scoreline in the decider.

Semi-final highlights: Atlético 0-5 Salzburg

Neto got things going by breaking his three-day-old record for fastest finals goal. Then Henrique Araújo, who like Neto and namesake Tomás Araújo had played in the 2020 final loss to Madrid, scored the first final hat-trick, not bad for a player only called back to the squad after the semis.

With Cher Ndour and Luis Semedo also on target, Benfica's 6-0 victory thrilled a large section of Portuguese fans in Colovray Stadium, watching live along with Luís Figo, Rui Costa and Nélson Veríssimo, the interim club senior coach. It was the first time since the 1961/62 European Cup that Benfica had won a UEFA football title.