Benfica thump Hertha to advance
Benfica flexed their muscles and enhanced their claim for the UEFA Europa League title with a stunning 4-0 rout of hapless Hertha Berlin at the Stadium of Light.
Pablo Aimar set the hosts on their way with a 25th-minute strike and Oscar Cardozo doubled the advantage three minutes into the second half. Javi Garcia netted a third after 59 minutes and Cardozo added a fourth three minutes later as Benfica made it five from five at home in Europe this season, amassing 17 goals in the process and conceding just one.
The emphatic result sealed a 5-1 aggregate triumph for the Portuguese Liga Sagres leaders and a place in the Europa League last 16 against FC Copenhagen or Marseille. Benfica had lost only once on home soil to German teams in European competition prior to the contest, with Bayern Munich's 1995 UEFA Cup victory the only defeat in 14 fixtures.
And Hertha, languishing at the foot of the Bundesliga, were unlikely to trouble the Eagles, whose soaring confidence was illustrated early on when Javi Garcia fired a 35-yard effort on target after eight minutes. Angel Di Maria, a reported big-money target for Premier League title hopefuls Chelsea, dragged a shot wide from the left, and Javier Saviola failed to find the target with a header soon after.
But it was not long before Benfica were in front, as Saviola laid on a goal for fellow Argentina international Aimar. Saviola played the ball in for his compatriot to drill into the bottom corner from 12 yards.
Florian Kringe and Rafael shot wide from long range as Hertha tried to mount a fightback, but Benfica went close to demonstrating their potency six minutes before the interval. Maxi Pereira's cross was met by Aimar, whose left-foot shot from six yards hit the bar. Benfica did not have to wait long, however, before doubling their lead as Cardozo met Di Maria's cross with a firm header from six yards for his first of the evening after 48 minutes.
Benfica had a third 11 minutes later when Hertha failed to clear Aimar's corner and Javi Garcia powered the ball into the bottom corner. A fourth arrived three minutes later, with Di Maria and Cardozo combining again for the latter to net his second of the game, converting the wingers cross from six yards. Fabio Coentrao had an effort on goal and Kringe had a slight opportunity for the visitors, but Benfica were untroubled as they surged into the next round.