Published On: Wed, Nov 22nd, 2017

Benfica finishes bottom of group to deny Europa League foray

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It could be a season to forget for Benfica.

Wednesday’s 2-0 loss at CSKA Moscow confirmed the reigning Portuguese champion will finish rooted to the bottom of Group A, relinquishing the chance to finish third and procure the consolation prize of a Europa League run.

Things aren’t faring so well on the domestic scene either. Benfica is already five points adrift of FC Porto in the Primeira Liga, with its one defeat this season coming against low-scoring mid-table outfit Boavista. Rui Vitoria’s side could make amends in the Taca de Portugal, where it makes a short trip to Rio Ave in the last-16 on Dec. 11.

(Photo courtesy: Getty Images)

The Aguias were struggling to string three passes together in the Russian capital, and went behind when their inability to clear the ball was pounced upon by Georgi Shchennikov, who sauntered through the visitor’s defence before lifting the ball over Bruno Varela.

The second goal was a touch unfortunate – Vitinho‘s attempt to square a ball was diverted into his own net by Benfica veteran Jardel – but CSKA Moscow exerted its authority over its pedestrian opponent for much of the tie.

Benfica's failure to score in the fixture meant Igor Akinfeev ended a string of 43 Champions League matches without a clean sheet, an unwanted record which stretched back to November 2006.

While this campaign is unlikely to be as heart-wrenching as the 2012-13 term – when Benfica lost Europa League and Taca de Portugal finals, and allowed Porto to steal the league title by losing at the Estadio do Dragao in the penultimate match – it is at risk of dawdling into an unfamiliar state of mediocrity for the two-time European Cup winner.

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