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Nothing Friendly About It – Panathinaikos v Benfica at BMO Field

Greek and Portuguese Champions Clash at BMO Field

A few weeks prior, I attended a press conference about this very match where ex-Panathinaikos player Ioannis Samaras and the Consulate General of Greece both spoke about hosting an event where the spectacle and quality of the teams on display would be appreciated by both sets of fans with a high degree of respect and sportsmanship.

And then, the game. Both sides fielded strong lineups, and I will outline them here. Panathinaikos were without star players Kostas Katsouranis, Giorgos Karagounis, Djibril Cisse, and Giourkas Seitaridis amongst others. Panathinaikos’ XI is as follows: GK: Karnezis DEF: Kante, Sarriegi, Melissis, Bjarsmyr MID: Dimoutsos, Marinos, Simao FWD: Leto, Rukavina, Cleyton

Panathinaikos’ Sebastian Leto absolutely ran the show for his side today, with any and every chance Panathinaikos had coming through his ability to run at the Benfica and play passes behind the defense to his teammates.

Benfica’s XI is without Angel Di Maria, Oscar Cardozo, Pablo Aimar and Fabio Coentrao. Despite this, they fielded a lineup of: GK: Moreira DEF: Peixoto, Luis Filipe, David Luiz, Sidnei, Faria MID: Airton, Amorim, Menezes FWD: Kardec, Oliveira

Benfica’s bench was quite impressive, with players like Javier Saviola, Javi Garcia, Nuno Gomes and Weldon, who were all introduced as the game progressed.

The stadium itself filled quickly with fans, almost all of whom were Benfica supporters. They came in droves, filling BMO Field almost by themselves, and made their team feel absolutely at home early on. Before kickoff, both teams paraded their League Championship trophy around the ground. Panathinaikos were jeered and booed by the overwhelming Benfica support, but when Nuno Gomes hoisted Benfica’s trophy high, it was met by Mexican waves and chants all around.

And then the game began. Benfica kept the play in Panathinaikos’ half of the pitch, and drove forward time and again but lacked the punch to break through the Greek backline. Fifteen minutes in, Portuguese coach Jorge Jesus made his first change. It was Javier Saviola for defender Luis Filipe, a bold move in hindsight. Sebastian Leto, who was much more free to roam now that Benfica had reduced their defensive numbers, time and again found himself behind enemy lines cutting the ball back for any Greek to prod past Benfica goalkeeper Moreira, but none were so lucky.

Leto’s rapier-like runs were beginning to cause panic in the Portuguese ranks, and the crowd was beginning to notice it as well. Benfica responded very harshly, getting very physical with Leto and Dimoutsos, who were time and again carving through the Benfica defense. David Luiz, who seemed an absolute fan favourite by the amount of cheers he received each and every time he found himself on the ball, was first to be booked. A few strong challenges on Leto saw the Brazilian center-half cautioned just 28 minutes into the match. This was not received well by the Benfica supporters, who constantly booed the referees from then on. Things heated up on the field as well, with Leto again causing panic in Benfica’s ranks, and this time Airton received a caution. Leto and Dimoutsos were constantly squaring up to the Benfica defenders, who were playing very aggressively despite the match being billed as a friendly.

Just before halftime, David Luiz stamped on Dimoutsos after the Greek won the ball with a slide-tackle on the Brazilian,  and received his second yellow card and a sending off. The Benfica faithful were going ballistic; they shook the stadium with anger and booed as their team were completely losing their heads in an exhibition match. Minutes later, Dimoutsos was hacked down by Amorim just as the halftime whistle was blown, and a brawl like I’ve never seen at a football match before broke out on the field. Airton and Leto went head-to-head and actually threw punches; Menezes and Simao were involved in a pushing match; Rui Costa, who is part of the coaching staff of Benfica, actually came off the bench and onto the field and got right into it with Kante; all hell had absolutely broken loose. Finally, police entered the field of play and calmed down what was now a mob instead of two teams, and everyone went back to their dressing rooms for halftime.

The second half was much less eventful and much more calm. Nuno Gomes, Javi Garcia, and Weldon were all introduced for Benfica, which pleased the crowd and calmed the game down. The exhibition that the Consulate General of Greece spoke of having finally took place, which saw Dimoutsos rattle the crossbar from a Sebastian Leto setpiece, and a Dimoutsos goal disallowed for offside after a wicked through-pass from Sebastian Leto.

Ten-man Benfica held Panathinaikos to a nil-nil draw, which was still as exciting an exhibition as you’ll ever see. Next season’s Champions League could see the two playing eachother, so let’s hope we see a game as enthralling and dramatic as this one was in Europe’s premier competition next season.

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0 Comments

  1. lazo

    May 25, 2010 at 9:14 am

    Who ever wrote this article is obviously Portugues and watched another game cause I was there and Panathinaikos was all over Benfica. In the first 10 mins, Benfica came out strong but that was it. Leto was running circles around any Benfica player. Panathinaikos had a lot more scoring chances, especially in the 2nd half when we hit the crossbar. As for the fan support, haha Panathinaikos was being cheered not only for the full 90 min game but even before and after. If you need evidence to see how often Panathinaikos was being cheered, just go to youtube and you’ll see. Shame on you author for writing this dispicable article as it is extremely false. You must of have been watching another game. GO PAO GO AND GREECE EURO 2004 CHAMPS.

    PS. GREECE WILL ALWAYS OWN PORTUGAL. THANK FOR COMING OUT 🙂

    • dylan thomas

      May 25, 2010 at 11:30 am

      1. Leto’s rapier-like runs were beginning to cause panic in the Portuguese ranks, and the crowd was beginning to notice it as well. Benfica responded very harshly, getting very physical with Leto and Dimoutsos, who were time and again carving through the Benfica defense.

      2. Panathinaikos’ Sebastian Leto absolutely ran the show for his side today, with any and every chance Panathinaikos had coming through his ability to run at the Benfica and play passes behind the defense to his teammates.

      3. The exhibition that the Consulate General of Greece spoke of having finally took place, which saw Dimoutsos rattle the crossbar from a Sebastian Leto setpiece, and a Dimoutsos goal disallowed for offside after a wicked through-pass from Sebastian Leto.

      im not portuguese, and i wrote exactly what i saw. there were maybe 200 greeks at the game compared to probably 10,000 benfica supporters. if the pana fans were chanting the entire game, no one heard them!

  2. JunctionJim

    May 24, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    This had to have been the worse advertised friendly in history, it’s no wonder the crowd was small.

  3. unknown

    May 24, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    are you guys kidding me!! Benfica fans were way louder, and the refs were very bias. everytime our player even touched a player from Panathinaikos the refs gave a card and the ref was not even near david luiz when the supposed stepping on happened ,and when one of the Panathinaikos hit one of the Benfica players in the face the ref didnt even give a yellow card what the hell is that!! i was very upset watching the game yesterday no wonder the refs were getting booed off the field after the game

    • Dylan Thomas

      May 24, 2010 at 7:41 pm

      the refs were quite biased thats true, but you do haveta say that the benfica players were playing very physically for a friendly game. and david luiz did stamp on the panathinaikos player, theres no doubt about it. it was as clear as day.

  4. george harris

    May 24, 2010 at 12:47 am

    well i find it really embarrassing those 2 teams are champions in europe both clubs got great european history in soccer that travel from europe to play a game for us & most of the media dint report about that game my hope is that both teams will come again the game from what i have read & listen it was verry good even without a goal had the taste that gives you a european champions league like dylan said even as a friendly the good part with teams of that level is that both dont want to lose god i really hate that i was unable to be there i really love the way that both teams work their strategy in defence and attack

  5. George

    May 24, 2010 at 12:45 am

    Your article is very biased. Although Benfica supporters did outnumber the supporters of Panathinaikos, the fans from the Greek side were more louder.

    • Krista

      May 24, 2010 at 3:13 am

      Benfica supporters did outnumber Panathinaikos supporters – but no mention of the loud Greek fans…or the Gate 13 crew with flags and banners who did not stop their chanting until the game was over.

    • Dylan thomas

      May 24, 2010 at 10:59 am

      the press box is above the benfica section. all I could hear were benfica supporters, and it’s a shame so few pana fans showed up. I don’t see the bias there!

  6. Dylan Thomas

    May 23, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    dont think so.. shockingly lower than they hoped though. if i hadta guess id say about 10,000 tops.

    • OleGunnar20

      May 23, 2010 at 10:50 pm

      it must have been embarrassing if they did not announce it or give it to the media/reporters to include in their reports. not a single news source, domestic (US/Canada) or foreign seems to have the information. kind of frustrating but whatev.

  7. OleGunnar20

    May 23, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    any attendance reported for this match?

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