Ahead of this game in the Europa League, Benfica knew they needed to secure a winning margin over Juventus before the second leg in Turin next week. Benfica did manage to crucially do that, by 2 goals to 1, but there was an uncharacteristic helping hand from Juventus along the way.
Benfica came flying out of the traps, running at Juventus with the ball as well as breaking on them at speed on the counter attack. Juventus looked slow by comparison and it looked like Benfica might just be too quick and mobile for the slower, but extremely wise and experienced Juventus team.
Benfica scored after just three minutes, when Ezequiel Garay scored from a corner. Leonardo Bonucci was marking him, but looked more concerned with trying to put Garay off than actually attacking the ball. He didn’t manage to do so, and Garay headed in past Gianluigi Buffon. It was poor from Bonucci and it was costly too on this occasion.
As the game progressed, Juventus got better and better; they grew into the game and looked the better team in the middle third of the game. Carlos Tevez got them back into it and it looked like Juventus would perhaps go on and win the game, or at least draw the game. They may have looked slower earlier, but now, it seemed, their experience and know-how was coming to the fore, it looked like it would see them over the line.
More slack defending cost them late on though, as Benfica striker Lima struck from just inside the Juventus 18 yard box to give Benfica a crucial goal, and a win they desperately needed. Lima started out from an attacking midfield position and nobody in the Juventus midfield tracked the Brazilian as he headed for the box, and nobody from defense closed him down once he got there.
Juventus, usually so well-drilled and tactically in tune, were not so on this occasion, just as they weren’t earlier in the game and it cost them, not only a goal, but a positive result to take back to Italy. The Italians will not be too dismayed at the scoreline, though — it is certainly retrievable for them in Turin, without question. But it could have been better for them. That’s what will disappoint the Juventus manager Antonio Conte.
It gives them a bigger job to do in the second leg now, bigger than it needed to be, and Benfica will be a threat on the counter attack in that game too. The Portuguese team showed that in this game they can be very dangerous on the break, and Juventus must defend better than they did in Portugal. They must start quicker as well, but above all else, they must win — that, they know now, is the only result that will get them through.