Tottenham Hotspur 1 Benfica 3
Scorers: Eriksen Rodigo, Luisao (2)
Team: Lloris; Walker (Rose), Kaboul, Vertonghen, Naughton; Lennon, Paulinho, Sandro (Bentaleb), Eriksen; Adebayor, Kane (Soldado) Subs: (unused) Friedel, Fryers, Chadli, Townsend
Tim Sherwood selected Kyle Walker in his normal full back position with Kyle Naughton moving to the left. Younes Kaboul and Jan Vertonghen were in central defence with the French international taking on the captain’s role. Paulinho returned in central midfield with Sandro and Christian Eriksen. Harry Kane started with Emmanuel Adebayor.
In a first half where there was little creative football from either side, it was Benfica who took the lead with half an hour played. Rodrigo’s effort when he curled his low shot beyond Hugo Lloris was the only shot on target in the first 45 minutes. The goal came as Benfica carried the ball out of defence and with one pass cut open the Tottenham defence for the goalscorer to run on to the ball and carry it forward into the area with Naughton in pursuit. His carefully placed shot giving Lloris no chance.
Benfica were quick to the ball in the early stages allowing Spurs no time to pass or link up play. The congested midfield was not conducive to passing or creative football with both sides frequently giving the ball away. After the early play Spurs had a period of possession and won a series of corners and free-kicks but with poor delivery by Eriksen they never troubled the well-marshalled Benfica defence.
In the 14th minute when Spurs managed to put a few passes together they created a chance for Sandro to shoot but it was well off target. The greatest threat for Spurs came from the early uncertainty of the visitors goalkeeper, Oblak, who was making his European debut. On one occasion he struggled to claim the ball off Kaboul’s head as he challenged for a free-kick and on a later occasion, he rushed out of goal for a long header forward by Kaboul but had to back-track into the area to claim the ball with Eriksen closing in.
Going forward it was Benfica who looked more dangerous and it was from their first meaningful attack that they took the lead. Rodrigo got ahead of Naughton on the right and the perfectly placed pass gave him time to run on the edge of the area before shooting.
Tottenham’s game was uncertain and for all their endeavour they were still plagued by their recent problem of individual mistakes and conceding possession in dangerous positions.
The second half started in a more positive fashion and after 48 minutes Eriksen with a lovely pass found Adebayor behind the Benfica defence but the striker put his effort across goal and wide. In an immediate response Rodrigo tried to chip Lloris from the edge of the area but the ball went wide.
After 52 minutes Kane played the ball across field to Lennon who cut into the area but his low shot lacked power and was easily gathered by the goalkeeper. Four minutes later Kane was caught in possession in midfield allowing Benfica in on goal but Lloris made a great save to tip the ball over the bar. From the corner Spurs were punished as the Benfica captain, Luisao, moved unmarked to the edge of the six yard box to head home and double the visitor’s advantage.
In the 62nd minute, Kane won a free-kick on the edge of the area which Eriksen curled over the wall to give Spurs some hope of a recovery. It wasn’t to be as Benfica continued to be the more composed side while Spurs’ play was littered with mistakes and poor passes.
Lloris rushed out of his area and just managed to clear a long ball forward and then in the 70th minute from another free-kick for a foul on Kane, Eriksen found Kaboul but the defender’s header was straight at the goalkeeper.
Spurs pushed forward but couldn’t find a way through the Benfica defence and were susceptible to the quick break. Lloris in a copycat mistake like Oblak in the first half, misjudged a ball forward and having rushed out had to get back and just managed to push the ball away for a corner.
Sherwood made three changes but Roberto Soldado make no impression and Adebayor had a quiet evening. Vertonghen was booked and misses next week’s game and then in the 84th minute from another free-kick Spurs conceded the third. Lloris made a good save from the header but Luisao followed up to blast the rebound into the roof of the net.
It was game over as Spurs continued to chase the ball but to little purpose and in the final minutes Benfica could have added to Spurs embarrassment on two further occasions but Lloris kept them out.
At the final whistle the match ended to a near empty stadium with a grim-faced Tom Sherwood standing on the touchline. Spurs would need to score three without reply to progress to the quarter-finals, a task which looks beyond them against a team who outclassed them and were just too good.