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Benfica reaches last 16 after narrow victory over Juventus

Benfica reached the last 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday after winning a close match against Juventus 4-3 and sending the Italians out of the competition.

Antonio Silva’s early header, a penalty from Joao Mario just before half-time and Rafa Silva’s stylish brace put Benfica in second place in Group H, eight points ahead of third-placed Juve with one game left.

Roger Schmidt’s squad are unbeaten in all competitions this season and could improve their group stage points record of 12 next week with a win at bottom side Maccabi Haifa.

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Benfica are tied at 11 points with league-leader Paris Saint-Germain and have a chance to lead the group next week, although they need Juve to get a result against the French champions in Turin after finishing first in the group stage were dumped over nine years.

“We played brilliantly with and without the ball,” said Schmidt.

“We played against Juventus, which are not an easy team to play against, but we believed in ourselves and played great football.”

Juve traveled to Lisbon knowing that only a win would give them any hope of making it to the last 16, but although Moise Kean leveled them in the 21st minute, the away side never had a chance to claim the three points.

Another bad night for Juve was somewhat alleviated by the fight shown late in the day, with quick goals from Arkadiusz Milik and Weston McKennie, and a big push for victory in the last 15 minutes that turned into what looked like a thump. just a painful elimination.

“We made it difficult for ourselves,” the besieged Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri told Sky in Italy.

“(But) our elimination was already decided before we played tonight’s game.”

The defeat will put more pressure on Allegri on a day when prosecutors in Italy have closed preliminary investigations into alleged false accounting by Juve.

His team has lost four of their five matches in the competition and it is not even guaranteed that they will drop to the Europa League as they are tied on just three points with Maccabi.

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Benfica were well ahead as Antonio Silva put the hosts ahead in the 17th minute, conceding his first goal of the season from Enzo Fernandez’s vicious cross after a short corner.

Four minutes later, Kean stunned the springing home crowd when he jabbed home after chaos from Filip Kostic’s corner. Although his finish was initially disallowed for offside, a lengthy VAR check amid deafening whistles led to the Serbian draw for Juve.

But just when Juve looked like they’d upset Benfica, Juan Cuadrado gave them the chance to retake the lead from the penalty spot, an opportunity that Joao Mario swallowed with a powerful strike in the 28th minute.

And Rafa piled up even more trouble for Juve with 10 minutes to go in the first half, just after Dusan Vlahovic lost a great chance to tie the scores for the second time.

The former Portugal forward spread the ball wide and then ran into the penalty area followed by no one and completely free to daringly lean back into Joao Mario’s drilled low cross.

Rafa showed another touch of class five minutes after the break to extend his team’s deserved lead to three, fooling Wojciech Szczesny after Leonardo Bonucci played a lazy pass straight to Alejandro Grimaldo.

The 29-year-old would have completed his hat-trick in the 76th minute had it not been for another beautiful cross from Joao Mario.

From there, Juve suddenly brought the game back to life.

Two minutes after Rafa’s miss, Milik shoved in a cross from lively teenage substitute Samuel Iling-Junior and seconds later McKennie narrowed the deficit to just one by taking in after a scramble.

Juve pushed through bravely, knowing they needed two more to keep their Champions League campaign going. They couldn’t break through and were lucky not to give up a fifth with four minutes to go when Rafa hit the post with only Szczesny beating.

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