SL Benfica confirmed their presence in the semi-finals of the Portuguese cup by beating Leixões SC by the convincing scoreline of 6-2 on Wednesday night. Afterwards, head coach Rui Vitória shared his thoughts on the game.
"Our goal was to reach the semi-finals and we were able to do this deservedly, despite the considerable difficulties that Leixões put us through. After the first goal it got a bit easier. It was a clear and deserved win."
"We would always prefer to keep a clean sheet but I believe the goals that we conceded were a result of the progression of the scoreline. I would like to praise Leixões; they played a positive game and kept believing they could score and were rewarded with a couple of goals."
What did Vitória think of the performance of his exciting young winger Andrija Živković, who has already contributed seven assists in his eight appearances for the club.
"Živković is one of the several young promising talents that I am lucky to have in the squad... he is clearly improving as he gets more minutes and has showed great potential."
When asked to comment on the fact that Jonas, Benfica's usual penalty taker, offered his teammate Mitroglou the chance to take the spot-kick, Vitória highlighted the strong team spirit amongst the group:
'It's these small details that show how truly great a team actually is. The main goal is that the team gets the result regardless of who gets on the scoresheet. Furthermore, (look at) the team's reaction to Andre Almeida's goal [his first competitive goal for the club]... it just proves that every little detail contributes to making our side stronger."
The Reds will now face Estoril for the semi-finals of the competition, played across two legs on March 1st and April 5th.
'We truly want to get to the [Estádio do] Jamor [for the final], but we have to beat Estoril first and we don't consider ourselves favourites... we will have to show our quality on the pitch".
Wednesday's match was particularly special for Portuguese fullback André Almeida, who managed to score his first official goal for Benfica's first team. The 26-year old has been enjoying some regular first team football recently following unfortunate injuries to Álex Grimaldo and Eliseu. Like his coach, Almeida paid tribute to Benfica's plucky second division opponents.
"In our team, the goal is always the same: to win every match! We do have the silverware in mind, but we face and we think of each match one at a time. We have been working hard and this was a fair victory, but we must praise our opponent that didn't manage to get to this stage of the competition by chance."
Regarding his goal, enthusiastically celebrated by the fans and his teammates, Almeida confessed:
“It was a very special moment. I have wanted to score for the team for a long time! But the most important (thing) is the win, qualifying for the next stage of the competition, and putting smiles on our fans' faces."
"All of the lads are happy when our teammates do well, and it is this team spirit that makes us thrive and brings us closer to our supporters. Jonas is our top scorer and he kindly allowed Mitroglou to take the penalty and motivated him to complete a hat-trick. These small details show how united the group is and how the team's interests rise above those of individuals."
The action returns to the Estádio da Luz this Sunday at 16:00 in the Liga NOS, with the Eagles hosting bottom-of-the-table Tondela on Matchweek 18 of the competition.
Article by Luís Filipe Amante