By Sports Reporter/Doha
Four goals, two missed penalties, and countless chances illuminated a gripping game between Benfica and Aspire Football Dreams at Al Kass 2016.
Chances were few and far between in the opening stages, as both sides sought to get the measure of one another. Lining up in their famous red and white attire, Benfica’s approach was epitomised by man-mountain centre back Goncarlo Loureiro, compensating for a lack of pace with a strong physical presence and positional sense. Aspire’s early attempts to play their quick forwards in were therefore frustrated.
Benfica right back Diego Vilela was fortunate to escape a booking on 14 minutes for scything down Aboubakar Karamoko on the left side of the area. The chance came to nothing, but Aspire were by now growing into the game.
And, on 19 minutes they should have been ahead, when Karamoko just failed to beat keeper Celton Biai from eight yards out. Seconds later, the Benfica keeper did brilliantly once again to deny Sotigui Diabagate from point-blank range.
However, the Reds almost went ahead on 27 minutes from a dead ball situation of their own, when’s Diego Batista’s free kick from the right was met with a diving header from Pedro Correia that flashed just wide.
The first half drew to a close with a goalless scoreline, but this fascinating contest burst into life as the second period unfolded. With just two minutes gone, Karamako robbed Silva before sprinting clear down the right and squaring for captain Nyanje to slot home, low to the left, from eight yards out.
Within seconds of the restart, Loureiro was yellow carded for impeding Nyanje as he sprinted towards the area. From the resultant dead ball, Souleymane Aw chipped narrowly over.
Seconds later, Demetrio Carvalho turned from villain to hero when he charged into the opposition area and went down under a challenge that was judged illegal. The referee pointed to the spot, but keeper Abdul Nurudeen produced a wonderful save, diving full stretch to his left to keep out Batista’s well-struck penalty.
Nurudeen’s heroics galvanised Aspire and, on 71 minutes, they doubled their advantage. Daniel Andrade cut in powerfully from the right before feeding substitute Konan N’dri, who hammered home from the edge of the area, Biai’s despairing touch not enough to keep the ball out.
Just one minute later, following a goalmouth scramble in the Aspire area, Carlos Castro blasted home, sparking scenes of elation among the fervent Portuguese support in the stands, and signalling a frenetic finale to an absorbing game.
Almost from the restart, Aspire had a gilt-edged chance to put the result beyond doubt. Livewire N’dri evaded Silva’s despairing lunge and burst into the area from the left before drawing a foul from Carvalho. However, Nyanje could not convert the penalty that followed, shooting wide of the right hand post, the only false move he had made all evening.
This approach soon paid off as, with time running out, Benfica adopted the route one tactic. Man-of-the-match Biaa blasted the ball long from a drop kick, Correia headed on, and substitute striker Ricardo Campos held off a desperate challenge to tuck the ball home.
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