Thu, Dec 09, 2010 - Page 19 News List

Schalke finish top with win over tame Benfica

Reuters, LISBON

Schalke 04’s Benedikt Howedes, top, is challenged by Benfica’s Oscar Cardozo during their Champions League Group B soccer match at Luz Stadium in Lisbon on -Tuesday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Schalke 04 secured first place in Champions League Group B when goals by winger Jose Manuel Jurado and defender Benedikt Howedes gave them a 2-1 win over a tame Benfica on Tuesday.

Benfica were disappointing throughout, but Lyon’s late equalizer in the 2-2 draw against Hapoel Tel Aviv in the night’s other Group B game meant the Portuguese champions finished third and grabbed a Europa League place.

The German team scored with their first real chance of the game when Ivan Rakitic’s cross was chested down by Raul for his fellow Spaniard Jurado to fire in on 19 minutes, with a static Benfica defence caught ball-watching.

Schalke doubled their lead in the 81st minute when Howedes beat an offside trap after a corner to finish coolly from near the penalty spot before Luisao headed in a consolation goal for the hosts.

Lacking aggression going forward, Benfica’s sole clear chance in the first half was a fierce long-distance effort by midfielder Carlos Martins that went just wide.

The Lisbon club have failed to repeat last season’s impressive performances and the fans, already unhappy that the side are eight points adrift of Porto in the domestic league, made their point by booing the team during parts of the game.

Even without putting their foot on the gas, Schalke looked dangerous, with Rakitic and Jurado lively on the flanks and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, combining well with Raul to make the Portuguese side look vulnerable.

Benfica introduced Argentine duo Pablo Aimar and Nicolas Gaitan at halftime but Schalke continued to control the match and came close in the 54th minute when Peer Kluge beat Fabio Coentrao in the box only to send his scuffed effort wide.

The Portuguese team slowly started to threaten and created two chances in quick succession around the 65th minute, with Javi Garcia sending a first-time shot wide and Oscar Cardozo forcing Manuel Neuer to block a powerful drive moments later.

LYON V HAPOEL

AFP, PARIS

Hapoel Tel-Aviv narrowly missed out on qualifying for the Europa League after a thrilling 2-2 draw with French giants Lyon, who leveled five minutes from time to save face against the plucky Israeli side.

Lyon coach Claude Puel has only held on to his job thanks to the European exploits of his team, which had already qualified for the last 16 knockout phase of the competition before Tuesday’s home encounter.

However, the look on club president Jean-Michel Aulas’ face when Eran Zahavi gave Hapoel a 2-1 lead in the 69th minute with a superbly taken overhead kick suggested Puel’s troubles may not be over yet.

Lyon signaled their intentions from the outset and Bafetembi Gomis headed home in the 14th minute, only to be ruled off-side.

However, Hapoel were not in France to make up the numbers and the lively Toto Tamuz pounced on a loose ball and let loose a cannon of a shot that Lyon keeper Hugo Lloris did well to parry.

Moments later, Lyon spurned a great chance to open the scoring when Gomis unselfishly squared for Jean II Makoun while under pressure, however, Vincent Enyeama produced a fine save to stop the Cameroonian midfielder’s shot.

At the other end, Hapoel had the head of Gil Vermut to thank for blocking a goal-bound header from Cris after the Lyon defender rose to meet Miralem Pjanic’s cross.

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