LISBON (AFP) – A goal by impressive young Brazilian Talisca revived Portuguese champions Benfica’s hopes of reaching the Champions League knock-out stages for the first time in three seasons as it secured a 1-0 win over Monaco.
Talisca, 20, struck eight minutes from time in an entertaining match which saw the French side slip to their first defeat in seven matches and saw Benfica record their first win of this season’s competition to move on to four points, still bottom of the table but just one point off second-placed Monaco.
Leaders Bayer Leverkusen, who beat Zenit St Petersburg 2-1 earlier on Tuesday, are four points clear of Monaco with two games remaining.
With Monaco’s former Bulgarian international striker Dimitar Berbatov out with the groin injury he suffered in the first match between the two sides a fortnight ago, Lacina Traore came in for his first start in the competition.
Benfica had the first opening of the game, which failed to attract a packed house, but Eduardo Salvio, superbly set up by Talisca, scuffed his shot wide of the far post with Croatian goalkeeper Danijel Subasic beaten.
While the hosts had the majority of possession, they found it difficult to fashion chances and had to wait till the final minute of the half for their best opportunity as Nicolas Gaitan worked some space only for his goal-bound effort to be deflected for a corner by the outstretched boot of Andre Raggi.
Monaco started the second-half brightly but Layvin Kurzawa should have done better with a free header while down the other end Subasic produced an excellent save to turn away Talisca’s fierce effort from outside the area.
Benfica’s Brazilian international goalkeeper Julio Cesar saved his side on the hour mark as he got down to stop Argentinian Lucas Carrasco’s shot after he had wriggled free of the attentions of his marker.
Monaco, emboldened by this, went close again in the 68th minute as Traore let rip with a fine curling effort from the edge of the area only for it to drift just wide of the far post.