by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (March 13th 2014)
Like him or loathe him – Tim Sherwood is firmly in the latter camp – Jorge Jesus has produced a fine team. Benfica came, they saw and they conquered a Spurs side that struggled to compete with A fluent Benfica team. Despite fancy approach play the Portuguese outfit had nothing to show for their dominance until Rúben Amorim’s exquisite slide-rule pass carved open Spurs’ defence. Former Spanish Under-21 star Rodrigo collected the pass on the edge of the area, cut inside and stroked the ball across Hugo Lloris to give Benfica a deserved lead. Cue bizarre jig by Jesus to celebrate.
Spurs clung on despite the odd defensive lapse to trail by that goal at half time. If Togolese striker Emmanuel Adebayor – an outcast under André Villas-Boas, but handed a new lease of life in his Spurs career by Sherwood had replicated Rodrigo’s finish when in a similar position shortly after the restart, Jesus’ antics may have remained under wraps, but Adebayor missed. Within ten minutes lax play cost Spurs dear. Harry Kane lost possession and Amorim almost punished him dearly.
His 25 yards out shot was tipped over by Lloris after 57 minutes. Benfica’s captain – Brasilian defender (Ânderson Luís da Silva) Luisão profited from yet more lax defending to double Benfica’s lead. He wasn’t picked up from Amorim’s corner and headed in. He rushed to the Benfica supporters and celebrated with what appeared to be a Carlos Tevez style golf-swing. It wasn’t – it was Luisão telling Benfica fans that the goal was for them.
Flickering Hope – Extinguished
Benfica’s goalkeeper Jan Oblak could do nothing less than five minutes later as Silvio’s foul was punished with more than a yellow card for unceremoniously finishing a promising move between Kane and Christian Eriksen. The former Ajax midfielder made the free-kick count – halving the deficit from almost 25 yards out.
There was no return, as despite hunting the equaliser Benfica’s resolve didn’t waver. Oblak had a better opportunity with 20 minutes remaining. Luisão’s foul ought to have been punished by Spurs but Eriksen’s free-kick was firmly met by Younès Kaboul, but headed at Oblak who gathered easily with Adebayor hovering for scraps. Lloris almost turned villain by making a hash of an attempted header clear. Rodrigo got there first, but Lloris scrambled back to save at the expense of a corner.
With less than ten minutes remaining Jan Vertonghen received a deserved caution for lunging in on substitute Nicolás Gaitán. Three minutes later Gaitán exacted the proper retribution. Ezekiel Garay’s header from Gaitán’s free-kick was parried by Lloris, but Luisão was on hand to lash the rebound in for his second and Benfica’s third.
That goal brought out the worst in Jesus who taunted his opposite number Tim Sherwood. They had niggled each other over encroaching from their technical areas from an early stage. Jesus – obviously no follower of his namesake – flashed three fingers at Sherwood who reacted angrily. Jesus was restrained by his own staff. He shoved them away. The scoring was over. Recriminations followed as Jesus and Sherwood did not shake hands after the match – they ignored each other.