Noticeably playing with greater width than in their two previous matches, Benfica were soon in control of proceedings and it was no surprise when they went ahead inside the first quarter.
A hurried Celtic clearance should not have spelt any danger, but when Fernando Alexandres picked up and turned he found enough space to drill in a shot from 28 yards that, although low, in the corner and well struck, should probably have been saved by Sandy Wood.
It wasn’t, and the writing was on the wall for Celtic.Benfica deserve credit for the way they played, and in truth should have won by a far more convincing score.
But that would have been tough on Celtic, who tried to chase the game in the incredibly tough conditions, and who even at the end were defending with spirit.Benfica, hardly seeming to miss the highly talented Jo?o Pereira who was called up for first team duty on Friday night, made the Celtic youngsters work hard with their enterprising passing and really should have extended their lead.Referee Clive Penton sensibly made light of the constant passing of water bottles onto the pitch and when a Celtic player was fouled on 37 minutes everyone bar the stricken player made for the sidelines seeking water.But Celtic gained little respite as they immediately lost possession from the free kick and a quick ball through the middle put striker Vasco Firmino clear.
The tall Benfica man still required a lucky break when the ball ran kindly for him to score after being challenged by the ‘keeper and a chasing defender.Benfica were combining well with Paulo Cesar, Joao Vilela and Fernando Alexandres catching the eye.
But they did squander good chances – a trait that has cost them dear in this tournament.The pattern, despite fresh legs from both teams, continued after the break, with lively substitute Fabio Ferraz missing a glorious chance and Celtic’s replacement ‘keeper Michael Robertson making a fine save from Alcidio Agostinho.But Celtic’s mountain became even steeper when Michael Gardyne received his second yellow card for a tired-looking lunge on the halfway line.That Benfica only scored once more – a superb low drive across the ‘keeper from Ferraz after an excellent passing move – says much for Celtic’s spirit and Benfica’s wastefulness in front of goal, with Firmino the prime culprit.Benfica coach Carlos Gomes was happy with the quality of football his team produced given the conditions, but not surprisingly thought they should have had a bigger margin of victory.
He said: ‘We would have loved our young players to have won this tournament.
We coped well with the heat and have prepared ourselves well physically for the tests.’ Benfica: Ricardo Campos, Decio Gomes (Nuno Alves 45, Y), Alexandre Dias, Amaro Fernandes (Y), Tiago Carvalhinho (Tiago Costa 45), Fernando Alexandres, Paulo Cesar (Fabio Ferraz 45), Helio Pinto, Vasco Firmino, Joao Vilela (Frederico Ruma 80), Alcidio Agostinho.Celtic: Sandy Wood (Michael Robertson 45), Chris McCormack, Charlie Mulgrew (Scott Friel), Craig Reid, Liam Mitchell (David Pinkowski 45), Stephen Low (Mark Cassidy 60), Ross Harris, Rocco Quinn (Y) (Pat Scullion 45), Gary Fraser (Nicky Riley 40), Aiden McGeady, Michael Gardyne (2Y,R).Officials: Clive Penton; Andy Norman, Russell Barry, Steve Proffitt.
4th official: Lee Mason.