Benfica always believed Champions League upset was possible, says coach

Darwin Nunez rose above the home defence to snatch a 1-0 victory for the Portuguese club in Tuesday’s second leg in Amsterdam and progress to Friday's quarterfinal 3-2 on aggregate.

Benfica players celebrate after the win.   -  REUTERS

Benfica always believed it could beat Ajax Amsterdam in the Champions League even if it was twice behind in the last-16 tie and has been in patchy form, said coach Nelson Verissimo.

Darwin Nunez rose above the home defence to snatch a 1-0 victory for the Portuguese club in Tuesday’s second leg in Amsterdam and progress to Friday's quarterfinal 3-2 on aggregate.

It was an upset result after Ajax won all six matches in the group stages and then dominated the first leg against Benfica in Lisbon last month, twice taking the lead away from home.

UEFA Champions League: Benfica advances with shock away triumph over Ajax  

The Dutch champion was also in total control in Tuesday’s return match but was caught cold by Benfica’s only effort on target.

"When we were drawn against Ajax, we knew we were going to have a very difficult task, but we never stopped believing that it was possible to win the tie," Verissimo told reporters.

"We had a difficult game, Ajax are one of the teams in Europe with the best quality in attack. We couldn't play the way wanted here, but if it doesn't work one way, there has to be another.

"We had to be committed in the defence and then take advantage of dead-ball situations. That's what happened."

A soft freekick 13 minutes from time allowed Nunez to outjump both Ajax defender Jurrien Timber and goalkeeper Andre Onana for a ‘smash-and-grab’ result.

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It provides Benfica with a major morale boost after a poor domestic season, where it is in third place in the league some 12 points off the top of the standings.

"We are aware that the Champions League is a kind of salvation for our season," Verissimo added.

"Our initial objective was to get the knockout stage of the Champions League and now it's up to us to continue the Benfica dream."

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