Football:Battling Boca down Benfica’s Eagles

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Even coach Paulo Manuel Bento, normally a mild-mannered man, was angry.

If nothing else he expected a free kick from the edge of the area.

At best it could have been a penalty.As it turned out, when David Reano clearly controlled the ball with his arm, to prevent Benfica’s Fabo Ferraz getting goal-side of him on the right of the penalty area, with only the ‘keeper to beat, the referee allowed play to continue for a few seconds longer before giving a free kick the other way, to Boca Juniors.’It came off his chest so it wasn’t a penalty,’ said referee Clive Penton afterwards.He was unruffled and, in truth, despite all of the gestures and heated words from Benfica, they didn’t deserve to win this game because their forwards lacked bite.By comparison, after the first 20 minutes, during which time Benfica seemed to have the game sewn up in midfield, Boca’s steely resolve saw them through.Even when Raul Osella was sent off in the 36th minute for a second yellow card offence – both for poor tackles – Boca kept their nerve and then scored a delightful goal themselves when, in the 40th minute, a free kick taken by Victor Galarza wide on the right was met sweetly by Reano who powered the ball to the left of Benfica’s ‘keeper, Joao Godinho, who had no chance.The Benfica defence had allowed the Boca No 6 the space to score.

By comparison Boca rarely gave the Benfica forwards any room at all.

Their bite was such that the second half was littered by free kicks and one of their trickiest, and most tenacious players, No 11, Victor Galarza was also booked for an over-enthusiastic tackle, but they were not a dirty side.In their No 5, Juan Castro, they had defensive midfielder par excellence.

His reading of the game was superb and his tackling fierce but fair.Meanwhile Benfica had their own potential match-maker in Joao Pereira, whose crosses into the box deserved better.In the 35th minute of the second half, for example, a well-judged cross from the right should have been thumped into goal by Joao Vilela.

Instead he fell over, claiming a penalty.Both teams had had their chances.After 11 minutes Benfica’s Vasco Firmino pushed wide, on the right, from five yards out.

Five minutes later team-mate Alcidio Agostinho also pulled a shot wide.Vilela’s delicate header in the dying minutes of the first half had the Boca ‘keeper well beaten but it drifted just wide, and Vasco Firmino in the second half tried an exaggerated bicycle kick when he had time to control the ball, turn and shoot.Benfica had their chances – but so, too, did Boca, and after re-arranging their side at half time, by swapping an attacker, Pablo Gonzalez, for midfielder Pablo Alvarez, they rode the Benfica tide and could have had a penalty of their own when Gaston Sangoy ended in a heap after running the ball too near to the ‘keeper.That was during a bright ten minutes at the start of the second half, when a superb through ball to Castro in space on the left deserved a better fate than to be tamely pushed wide.In terms of who would win this game it didn’t make much difference, and despite the late drama of that ‘handball’ incident, with ten minutes remaining Benfica’s frustration was obvious.

They had some flowing, silky skills in midfield, but they didn’t have the bulldog spirit Boca showed after their nightmare 48 hour journey, from Buenos Aires, to get here.Said Boca coach Regenhardt: I’m pleased with the result but not the performance.

My defence played well and the effort was good, with players like Castro showing great heart.

We’ve had a trerrible time getting here and playing with only ten men for so long was a big problem today.

But we’ve been made welcome and are happy to be here.’

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