A quieter Champions League knockout round matchday on Wednesday led to wins for both Borussia Dortmund and Benfica. The former defeated an expensive Chelsea side, despite the Blues holding more of the strong chances. Benfica travelled to Club Brugge and used a penalty to win in the other game.
The Dortmund win came by a narrow margin of 1-0. Benfica provided a little more comfort to fans watching back home, taking a 2-0 lead into the return leg in Portugal.
Those return legs are not for four weeks time. Still, there are a number of key takeaways for all teams involved in Wednesday’s set of fixtures.
Dortmund and Benfica pick up knockout round wins in first legs
The bigger of the two games on the day was certainly Chelsea’s trip to Germany. Chelsea entered on a sputter. The club is 10th in the table with three-straight draws in the league. Fresh signings are still getting comfortable at Stamford Bridge.
A trip to the Signal Iduna Park showed the potential of the squad. Chance creation, possession domination and quick passing allowed all statistics to say Chelsea should have won. Joao Felix had a gem of a game, a common occurrence for the loanee.
However, the name of the game for Chelsea was the inability to take chances. Felix hit the crossbar in the first half. Reece James forced two strong saves out of Dortmund goalkeeper Gregor Kobel. Enzo Fernandez almost had an equalizer in stoppage time. Emre Can had a goal-line clearance after Kalidou Koulibaly stung the palms of Kobel.
With all this pressure, it would take a moment of brilliance for Dortmund to find a goal of its own. That would be an understatement for what Karim Adeyemi did. Off a Chelsea corner, Adeyemi pounced on a clearance in his own half. He then dribbled past Enzo Fernandez and goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga to score the lone goal of the game.
That would be the difference in the game.
Benfica continues fine form in Europe
The Brugge-Benfica battle did not have the star-power of its simultaneous counterpart. Benfica, which finished top of the group with Juventus and PSG, continues to fly under the radar despite leading in the Primeira Liga. Brugge on the other hand is the surprise team in the Champions League knockout stages. The Belgian side sits fourth in its domestic league. Plus, in the group stage of the Champions League, Brugge was the joint-lowest scorer with just seven goals.
If Brugge was going to struggle to score, it would have to do well to keep the ball out of its own net. Early in the second half, that challenge got more challenging. A penalty on a defensive clearance allowed Joao Mario to put Benfica ahead from the spot.
Unable to get forward, Brugge only sent four shots away with one getting on target. Then, just before stoppage time, a defensive calamity from Brugge practically gifted David Neres a goal. Brugge now face a mountain as it travels to Portugal.
However, earlier in the season, Brugge did have to play at Porto. Brugge walked away with a shocking 4-0 win. The Belgians need a similar result to advance to the quarterfinals of the Champions League.
PHOTO: IMAGO / Moritz Müller
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