Bordeaux v Benfica: Thus far and no further
OK, we admit, we dropped the ball a bit on this one. First, Big Boss left it off the schedule so we didn’t get a preview up, then the brave soul who’d offered to watch the game got stuck at work. We were kind of hoping we could just reprint the review of the first leg, but then stuff actually happened, so…
Bordeaux are out. They lost 3-2 on the night, 4-2 on aggregate, against a Benfica side solid in defence and dangerous on the counter, leaving no French teams in the competition. The prediction after the first match, that “Benfica will be heavy favourites to score in France and Bordeaux will need to be very lucky to score more than one”, was right -Benfica opened the scoring and twice hit back immediately after a Bordeaux goal to maintain their winning margin on the night, which rapidly became unassailable in terms of the tie overall; and there was perhaps more than a degree of luck in the home team’s second goal, as defender Jardel roofed the ball over his own goalkeeper.
The hosts started brightly, Diabate hitting the bar in the first five minutes, and Mariano and Tremoulinas putting in dangerous crosses that needed Benfica keeper Artur Moraes to be on his game, but Benfica came into it after 20 minutes or so, Jardel opening the scoring with a towering header from a corner in the 29th. With an away goal, Benfica now looked odds on to go through.
In the second half, Francis Gillot rejigged his team in the hope of getting something back, bringing on Fahid Ben Khalfallah for Mariano, and Hadi Sacko for Nicolas Maurice-Belay in an attempt to add more pointedness to the limited Bordeaux attack, but it was a Benfica change that made the most difference – Rodrigo, who caused the only goal in the first leg (listed as an own-goal by keeper Carrasso, but frankly he knew little about it), was taken off just after the hour mark for Oscar Cardozo. After Cheick Diabate levelled things for Bordeaux with a lovely strike at 74 minutes, Cardozo immediately put Benfica back in front by jinking his way round the defence for a fine finish. In injury time, a Saivet header was poorly cleared by Moraes and Jardel levelled it (inadvertently) for the home side, but Cardozo again hit back immediately to make it 3-2.
After the match, a philosophical Gillot talked about the experience that the younger players had gained from Bordeaux’s European adventure, from the qualifying round to the last sixteen, but admitted that they were well-beaten in this tie, by a stronger side. Midfielder Jaroslav Plasil similarly paid respect to Benfica’s better enterprise, and noted that while the first (away) goal made things complicated, “it was the second that killed us”. Bordeaux’s usually solid defence (third-best in the league with only 24 conceded) was unable to deal with Benfica’s swift technique in attacks, and Lamine Sane, who suffered particularly in this, said “it was a very good lesson”. Next we will see what they have learned from it – as Gregory Sertic says, “the challenge now is to reproduce this kind of performance in the league”. Despite their disappointment, the view expressed by all was that they had done what they could, were proud of their achievement, and are looking forward to their Coupe de France quarter-final against Lens in April. First, they have an away trip to Toulouse on Sunday, a chance to consolidate top-half status.