Football: Benfica edge out PSV to boost Champions League qualifying hopes

Benfica's forward Rafa da Silva (right) shoots during the UEFA Champions League play-off first leg football match at the Luz stadium in Lisbon, on Aug 18, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - Benfica moved towards a place in the Champions League group stage by beating PSV Eindhoven 2-1 in their play-off round first leg on Wednesday (Aug 18), despite a brilliant goal from the Dutch side's winger Cody Gakpo in Lisbon.

Two-time European champions Benfica, who lost to PSV in the 1988 final, are looking to return to club football's top table after losing in qualifying last season.

"Away goals don't count now, but 2-0 is much better than 2-1," said Benfica coach Jorge Jesus, referring to Uefa's scrapping of the away goals rule.

"At this stage, when you're playing with these teams, the home or away factor doesn't count for much. Everyone can win, we can also go to Eindhoven to win."

It was the fifth match of the campaign already for PSV, who have already knocked out Galatasaray and Midtjylland.

Portugal forward Rafa Silva gave the hosts the lead in the 10th minute, latching on to close-season signing Roman Yaremchuk's clever pass and sliding a low finish into the bottom corner.

Benfica grabbed their second goal shortly before half-time, as German midfielder Julian Weigl turned home a loose ball in the box.

But PSV winger Gakpo dragged his side back into the tie less than six minutes after the break with a wonderful individual goal, embarking on a driving run from inside his own half before finding the net from 20 yards out.

Mario Gotze was denied an equaliser by an excellent tackle by Rafa Silva as PSV pushed to no avail.

Benfica know they can book a spot in the group stage draw, to be held in Istanbul on Aug 26, if they avoid defeat in Eindhoven next Tuesday, but Gakpo's strike will give PSV confidence.

"Everything is still open for the second leg in our stadium," insisted PSV winger Bruma. "We have to stay focused and do our work next week. We're going to go for it."

Ten-man Young Boys win

Elsewhere, Swiss champions Young Boys took a big step towards only a second group-stage appearance since the competition was revamped from the European Cup with a 3-2 win over Ferencvaros in Bern.

After early goals for both sides, Young Boys played for over an hour with 10 men after Silvan Hefti was sent off.

Myrto Uzuni missed the resulting spot kick for the Hungarians and Vincent Sierro's stunning long-range strike put the home side in front in the 40th minute.

Young Boys' Ulisses Garcia (centre) celebrates his goal at the Wankdorf stadium in Bern, Switzerland, on Aug 18, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Ulisses Garcia's second-half effort put Young Boys in total control but Franck Boli's second goal of the game, with eight minutes remaining, gave Ferencvaros hope ahead of the return leg in Budapest.

The day's other match saw Malmo beat Bulgarian side Ludogorets Razgrad 2-0 thanks to goals from Veljko Birmancevic and Jo Inge Berget in Sweden.

On Tuesday, Pedrinho scored the winner as Shakhtar Donetsk claimed a 1-0 victory in Monaco, while Salzburg got the better of Danish club Brondby 2-1 and Moldovans Sheriff Tiraspol brushed aside Dinamo Zagreb 3-0.

In the Europa League play-offs on Wednesday, Japan international Kyogo Furuhashi's sixth goal in as many games for Celtic helped the Scottish giants to a 2-0 first-leg victory at home to AZ Alkmaar.

He put the Glasgow club ahead early on after good work by Tom Rogic, and James Forrest scored a deflected second-half goal to ensure Celtic established a useful lead ahead of next week's second leg in the Netherlands.

Victory made it five wins in a row for Celtic's new Australian manager Ange Postecoglou.

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