Benfica hold on with 10 men at PSV to reach Champions League ‘objective’


Paris (AFP) – Benfica captain Nicolas Otamendi said reaching the Champions League group stage was an “objective” after the two-time winners held onto a goalless draw in Tuesday’s second-leg at Eindhoven, despite playing the final hour with 10-men.

The Portuguese side defended superbly following Lucas Verissimo’s red card after winning the first leg 2-1 last week.

“The truth is that at the start we had chances against us. Then we were more solid,” Otamendi told RMC Sport.

“We’re growing a solid squad and we’ll need it as we’ll be in a lot of competitions. 

“We’ve just fulfilled the first objective. Now we’ll rest and be ready for the competition,” he added.

PSV coach Roger Schmidt made six changes from Saturday’s 4-1 league win over Cambuur as Ivory Coast’s Ibrahim Sangare replaced of the injured Davey Propper in midfield.

Schmidt’s counterpart Jorge Jesus rewarded left-back Alejandro Grimaldo with a starting berth after he scored in the weekend’s victory at Gil Vicente. 

A tight opening half an hour was sparked into life by Verissimo’s red card.

The centre-back was shown a second yellow after elbowing Cody Gakpo as the pair attempted to head the ball.

PSV’s best chance of the first half fell to Noni Madueke but the English teenager’s curling effort skimmed past the far post. 

Schmidt’s side continued to dominate after the break but found could not break down the Portuguese defence, including 33-year-old Argentina centre-back Otamendi, despite vocal home support.

On the hour, the hosts finally broke through but veteran Israel striker Eran Zahavi smashed the crossbar with his half volley at the back post.

Despite controlling possession and shots on target from Andre Ramalho, Sangare and two from replacement Yorbe Vertessen, PSV were unable to beat Benfica’s stubborn goalkeeper Odysseas Vlachodimos.

Elsewhere, Swiss champions Young Boys beat Hungarian title holders Ferencvaros 3-2 for a 6-4 victory.

Swedish side Malmo reached the top-tier competition’s group stages with a 3-2 aggregate win over Ludogorets despite losing 2-1 in Bulgaria.

On Wednesday, Sheriff Tiraspol take a 3-0 first leg lead to Dino Zagreb as they eye claiming Moldova’s first group stage appearance.

Monaco trail Shakhtar Donetsk 1-0 before heading to the Ukraine and RB Salzburg lead Brondy 2-1.

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