The forgotten club of Portugal in recent years taken over by Porto and Sporting Clube has been having a great season sitting on top of the league. They last won the title in 2005.
Oscar Cardozo (a big physical striker, Arsene?) has torched the opposition with 19 goals scored and the tall Paraguayan has been backed admirably by Javier Saviola’s 11. Benfica’s midfield has the quality of Pablo Aimar , Angel Di Maria, and Ramires. 61 goals scored in 24 matches with Porto a distant second with 50 goals scored. In defense the Brazilian pairing of Luisao and David Luiz has given up only 12 goals for a gaudy differential of + 49. Contrast this with second placed Braga’s +19 for a indication of their dominance.
All that talent on the pitch were hard pressed by an energized Liverpool squad. The Reds went ahead through a delectable Daniel Agger flick of a Steven Gerrard free kick. The match turned around when Ryan Babel was ejected after getting into a spat with Luisao in which he pushed the Brazilian’s face. The Dutchman was reacting to Luisao’s foul on Torres.
For the next hour Liverpool played with 10 men. Benfica began exerting control over the match as the quality of Aimar, Di Maria, and Cardozo came through. Di Maria especially with his crosses and shot making kept Reina busy.
The breakthrough came when Cardozo’s powerful free kick smacked the upright and came back to Aimar who was brought down by Insua. Cardozo smashed the PK past Reina. Di Maria’s work down the left was rewarded minutes later as his cross caught Carragher on the hand and Jonas Eriksson had no hesitation pointing to the penalty spot. Cardozo duly completed his penalty double.
Rafa Benitez can be pleased with the result. Liverpool get an important away goal. A great position to be in for the second leg at home next week.