Spartak edge Benfica for first win
© AFP

Russian side Spartak Moscow gained their first win of this season's UEFA Champions League campaign after losing their first two matches with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Portuguese opponents Benfica.

First-half goals by Rafael Carioca and an own-goal by his Brazilian compatriot Jardel gave the hosts the much needed three points after two successive 3-2 defeats away at Barcelona and then at home to Scottish champions Celtic.

Benfica, who had levelled through Lima, look highly unlikely to repeat their achievement of reaching the Last 16 last season as they have just a point after three games. Barcelona host Celtic later with the Catalan giants on six points and the Scottish side on four.

Spartak caught Benfica napping in the third minute, taking full advantage of a poor pass by Nemanja Matic just inside the hosts half. Spartak got the ball to Spanish playmaker Jose Manuel Jurado, who found Carioca running through on an overlap, and the 23-year-old defensive midfielder coolly clipped the ball past Artur into the net.

Benfica tried to turn the pressure on Spartak goalkeeper Artem Rebrov, who is the third-choice net-minder and playing only his first game in over a year, and forced a good save out of him in the 14th minute from Spanish U-21 striker Rodrigo.

Spartak were denied a second by the bar in the 24th minute as Ari's right-footed volley, from a brilliant cross by Jano Ananidze, beat Artur, but rebounded to safety.

Rebrov was holding his own in goal and made another smart stop from Matic on the half-hour mark as Benfica desperately tried to get back into the encounter. They finally succeeded in the 33rd minute as Salvio put in a pinpoint cross which was met by former Braga marksman Lima, who glanced his header past Rebrov.

The hosts, however, restored their lead two minutes before the break as Evgeni Makeev sent in a dangerous low cross from the right and Jardel, with Ari waiting to pounce, turned it into his own net.

Makeev went close for Spartak early in the second-half at which point Benfica coach Jorge Jesus opted to throw his Paraguayan ace striker Oscar Cardozo on, having opted not to start with him because he is coming back from injury.

However, it was Benfica's Argentinian winger Salvio who went closest to levelling the game for a second time as he nipped in behind Makeev, but poked his right-footed effort just wide of the far post with 20 minutes to go.

The visitors forced a series of corners in the dying minutes, but to no avail as the Russians held out for a deserved victory. The match ended on a sour note as there was a clash between some of the players after the final whistle.