Benfica were eliminated from the UEFA Youth League at the quarter-final stage today, succumbing to a 2-0 defeat to Real Madrid at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stéfano. The goals came from Febas (66') and Salto (77'). Benfica played the last 20 minutes of the match with ten men after Pedro Amaral received a second yellow card.
Benfica defeated Astana 8-0 at Seixal during the group stage of this season's tournament. They finished top of their group with 16 points, conceding just 3 goals, and scoring an impressive 29, a new record for the competition. They also set a new benchmark for the biggest margin of victory, beating Galatasaray 11-1 in Turkey. Benfica advanced to the round of 16, where they defeated Czech side Příbram 5-3 on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw.
Going into today's game, there were high hopes that Benfica would defeat Real Madrid, just as they did in the inaugural season of the competition in 2013/14. That year, Benfica defeated Real Madrid 4-0 in Nyon at the semi-final stage. Ultimately, the campaign ended in disappointment, as Benfica lost 3-0 to Barcelona in the final.
Although Benfica were unable to bring home the silverware that day, the blow was softened by the emergence of promising new players such as Gonçalo Guedes, Nuno Santos, Romário Baldé, Rochinha, and Pedro Rebocho. This year's rising star is 20-year old Hildeberto Pereira (pictured below), who has operated both at right-back and in attack.
Clearly, the UEFA Youth League has been beneficial for the development of Benfica's young players. With another excellent showing in the latest edition of the tournament, the footballing world is starting to stand up and take notice of the the club's fantastic youth academy at the Caixa Futebol Campus.