Schalke take top spot
Schalke are through to the last 16 of the Champions League in top spot in Group B after victory at Benfica.
By Mike Barton
Last Updated: 07/12/10 10:37pm
Schalke went through to the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League in top spot in Group B after a hard-fought 2-1 win at Benfica.
Jose Manuel Jurado and Benedikt Howedes scored the goals for the German side to make the game all-but safe, but Luisao scored a late reply to make things a little tense for the home team.
Benfica now make it through to the Europa League off the back of Hapoel Tel-Aviv failing to beat Lyon, but they will need far better displays if they are to have any chance of winning that competition based on this showing.
The first opportunity came for the home side, with the ever-exuberant Fabio Coentrao bursting down the left to feed Oscar Cardozo in space in the area, but he fired his snap-shot well over the bar.
But it was the away team who took the lead after outstanding work from Spanish maestro Raul, who started the move in midfield with an intelligent run.
He then fed the ball out to Ivan Rakitic before darting into the box to meet his cross with a chest down to Jurado, who nearly finished on the half-volley from 10 yards out in the 19th minute.
Benfica needed to up their game, and Carlos Martins tried to lift their spirits from distance, but his shot flew past Manuel Neuer's right-hand post.
It was about as good as it was getting for the Portuguese champions, who were clearly lacking in confidence, and Schalke were putting the pressure on, passing the ball around with confidence and playing in some dangerous crosses from the wing.
Javier Saviola then ran on to Martins' deflected shot to fire home, but the effort was ruled out for offside as he put the ball in the net by referee Howard Webb.
The second half began with the away side in control, passing the ball around neatly and mounting the first attack with a weak shot from Jurado straight into the arms of goalkeeper Roberto.
The German side then had another chance as the excellent Jurado chipped the ball through for Peer Kluge, but his half volley was scuffed straight at Roberto to clear away with his legs.
Schalke were by far the better side, making crisp passing moves and constantly getting the influential Jurado into the game, however they were failing to create any clear cut chances.
Benfica were almost level with 63 minutes on the clock, with David Luiz's header deflecting into Javi Garcia's path, but the midfielder could only put the ball wide.
It was then in the 66th minute that the labouring home side got their first shot on target, with Cardozo stinging Neuer's fingers with a strike from the edge of the box that was never really troubling the German No.1.
Webb then turned down an appeal for a penalty by the Portuguese side, as Saviola ran through on goal to go down under the challenge of Neuer, but the replays suggested that the Argentine had dived.
Pablo Aimar then went close as he hit a shot from the edge of the box just wide of the post after being fed by Martins.
But it was surely game over with nine minutes remaining; Howedes managing to stay onside from Kluge's header on from the edge of the box to fire neatly home completely unchallenged and seal top spot.
Benfica made the game interesting with Luisao heading home a corner in the 87th minute to give them some hope.Luiz then hit the post from a free-kick in a great climax to the game, but it was to matter little as Lyon managed to gain a draw with Hapoel to allow the Portuguese side to limp into the Europa League by the skin of their teeth.
|Benfica||Team Statistics||FC Schalke 04|
|0||1st Half Goals||1|
|3||Shots on Target||4|
|13||Shots off Target||2|