Benfica 1-2 RB Leipzig: Werner double secures deserved victory

RB Leipzig began its Champions League campaign with a win thanks to Timo Werner's double against Benfica.

RB Leipzig's Timo Werner scored a brace against Benfica in his side's 2019-20 UEFA Champions League opener.   -  Getty Images

Timo Werner struck twice to give RB Leipzig a deserved 2-1 victory over Benfica in its Champions League Group G opener on Tuesday.

Germany international Werner took his tally to seven goals in six games in all competitions this season with two clinical finishes inside nine second-half minutes at the Estadio da Luz.

Werner opened the scoring with a low arrowed shot and then tapped home from close range with 12 minutes remaining.

Benfica provided some late drama when Haris Seferovic scored in the 84th minute, but Leipzig held on for a win that puts it top of the pile after Zenit and Lyon drew.

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Benfica coach Bruno Lage, who was serving a touchline ban after being sent off during last season's Europa League semifinal second leg against Eintracht Frankfurt, put his faith in younger players as Tomas Tavares made his full debut and Ferro and Jota started.

Leipzig looked the more accomplished side and thought its early intensity had produced an opening goal when Werner crossed for Emil Forsberg to slot home, only for VAR to disallow it for offside.

Both sides had chances in added time at the end of the first half; Benfica's Raul de Tomas headed straight at Leipzig goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi, while at the other end Yussuf Poulsen curled wide.

Benfica keeper Odisseas Vlachodimos made a vital interception from a teasing Poulsen cross after the interval to deny the lurking Werner.

It served as warning and with 69 minutes on the clock Werner took his chance, firing a low, angled shot into the net after Poulsen's lay off.

Werner added a second when Marcel Sabitzer crossed and the Germany striker steered in a goal that was ruled out for offside until VAR overturned the decision.

Benfica got one back when Seferovic slid in to guide the ball home at the back post, but it was too little, too late as Leipzig claimed maximum points.

 

What does it mean? Leipzig looking likely lads

With four evenly matched teams in Group G the margins to progress to the knockout phase are going to be fine. Points earned on the road, therefore, could well prove to be the difference.

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Leipzig played with confidence and assurance against the Portuguese champion and fully deserved the win, which sets it up to improve on its failure to get out of the group stage in 2017-18.

Poulsen looks potent for Leipzig

The fulcrum of Leipzig's attacking threat came was Denmark forward Poulsen, who intelligently cut inside to cause havoc. Most impressively he was there to do the dirty stuff as well, and used strength to good effect when he laid the ball off for Werner's opener. 

Profligate Pizzi not up to the mark

With a number of inexperienced youngsters in its side Benfica needed some of its older players to stand up and prove its worth. However, 29-year-old attacker Pizzi failed to make the most of good opportunities that came his way.

Leipzig hero Werner hails Nagelsmann impact

Timo Werner singled out head coach Julian Nagelsmann after scoring twice as RB Leipzig upstaged Benfica in its UEFA Champions League opener.

Afterwards, Werner hailed Nagelsmann – who arrived from Bundesliga rivals Hoffenheim to replace Ralf Rangnick this season and has led Leipzig to the top of the German table after four matches.

"Nagelsmann is getting us very well-prepared before the games, he's always got a few ideas when it comes to tactics and how we can react to our opponents," Werner told DAZN. "It's worked really well in every game we've played. He sets us up, but we have to execute out on the pitch."

Werner said: "It always feels great to score twice whether it's in the league or the Champions League, but tonight I think we saw phases of a very attractive game of a football. Both teams wanted to win, but for long periods our lead was deserved so we're delighted to come away with a win.

"The way my team-mates set me up today was great. That's why I'm here - to put the finishing touches on chances. Everyone put in a great performance today.

"After opening the scoring, doubling our lead was only a matter of time. We're pleased with the win, but if we can improve our chance conversion we'll be able to decide games in our favour earlier."

It was the perfect start to Leipzig's Champions League campaign for Nagelsmann, who reportedly attracted interest from Real Madrid and Arsenal before committing to the Bundesliga outfit.

The 32-year-old sensation, who led Hoffenheim to the Champions League during his time at the club, won his first European match in charge of Leipzig and he said: "The win feels good, because we wanted to win here at the start. The victory at the start is extremely important - especially before the exhausting weeks ahead of us."

Key Opta Facts

- Benfica has been defeated in six of its last eight home matches in the Champions League group stage, as many as it had lost in its previous 27 such games in the competition.
- Werner has now scored five goals in his last three away games in the Champions League, having struck against Monaco (x2) and Porto in 2017-18.
- The RB Leipzig striker has scored seven goals in six appearances in all competitions this season – more than twice as many as any team-mate.

What's next?

Benfica returns to Primeira Liga action at Moreirense on Saturday, while Leipzig travels to Werder Bremen.

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