MONACO (AFP) – Monaco and Benfica played out a dismal Champions League 0-0 draw on Wednesday in a result that significantly tightens up Group C.
The French side now have five points and are one behind Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen, who defeated Zenit St. Petersburg 2-0, to leave the Russians on four and Benfica now on one point after three matches.
Monaco were taking on Portuguese opposition for the first time since they lost the 2004 Champions League final against Jose Mourinho’s Porto in Germany when current France coach Didier Deschamps was in charge of the Cote d’Azur club.
Deschamps was in the stands at the Louis II stadium on Wednesday and must have been wondering what had happened to his former team in a dire 90 minutes of poor quality football that saw the visitors finish the match with 10 men.
Benfica, who have lost the past two Europa League finals against Chelsea and Sevilla respectively, had the better second half chances before central defender Lisandro Lopez was shown a straight red card with 15 minutes left.
Prior to Lopez’s moment of madness, when he went in with an ugly challenge on Joao Moutinho, Jorge Jesus’s side were denied on several occasions by the excellent Monaco ‘keeper Danijel Subasic.
Monaco defender Andrea Raggi could have snatched victory in injury time when he had a clear header from six yards out but under pressure steered the ball wide.
The first 45 minutes produced a sign of things to come as both teams clogged up the midfield and played it safe at the back.
Argentine Lucas Ocampos had the best chance for both teams when set up by Dimitar Berbatov after 18 minutes but the former River Plate striker was unable to control a bouncing ball and skied his shot over the bar when faced with an open goal.
Monaco suffered a further blow 11 minutes before half-time when Berbatov pulled up lame with what appeared to be a groin injury and immediately waved to the bench that he was unable to continue.