Galatasaray Overcomes Benfica

Galatasaray ended a run of 10 Uefa Champions League games without a win as they came from behind to beat Benfica 2-1 at the Turk Telekom Arena on Wednesday.  The Turkish side’s last victory in the continental competition came against Juventus in December 2013, with last year’s campaign ending without any success.  It looked set to be another tough night for Hamza Hamzaoglu’s men when they fell behind after just 74 seconds, with Nicolas Gaitan scoring the fastest Champions League goal of the season.

Gala though, were unperturbed and they were handed a lifeline in the form of a penalty which Selcuk Inan rifled into the top corner.  The comeback was completed just after the half-hour mark when Lukas Podolski darted into space and slotted a shot beyond Julio Cesar.  There could have been more for the Turks in the second half but for a great save from Cesar which denied Umut Bulut and a Wesley Sneijder strike that was deflected onto the post, but two goals proved to be enough for the Group C victory.

The Portuguese side got off to an ideal start as some clever work from Jonas on the right drew a foul from Bilal Kisa and his quick free-kick released Gaitan in behind the off-guard defence.  The Argentine cut inside the challenge of the lunging Aurelien Chedjou before dinking a clever finish over Fernando Muslera inside two minutes.  Hamzaoglu’s charges were clearly stunned but responded positively, with visiting goalkeeper Cesar forced to backpedal and claw Hakan Balta’s header behind following a corner from Sneijder in the 16th minute
Two minutes later, Hamzaoglu’s men were awarded a penalty and a way back into the game when Andre Almeida was penalised for blocking Kisa’s shot with his hand.  Inan stepped up and fired the spot-kick into the top corner to restore parity.  Podolski then fired the Istanbul club ahead in the 33rd minute, finding space between the defenders to latch onto Chedjou’s long pass down the channel before guiding the ball between the legs of Cesar with the outside of his left boot.  Three minutes into the second half, Galatasaray went close to a third when Sneijder’s deflected strike from 25 yards came back off the upright with Cesar rooted to the spot.

Hamzaoglu’s men continued to look dangerous and in the 51st minute Cesar was forced to display fantastic reflexes once again to stop Bulut from adding a finishing touch to Balta’s flick-on.  Benfica soon regained the initiative, though, with Raul Jimenez drilling a 20-yard shot straight at Muslera before Gaitan had an effort blocked on the line by Sabri Sarioglu eight minutes later.  The Portuguese side worked hard to find an equaliser, but substitute Kostas Mitroglou could only find the side netting after Podolski had narrowly missed out on his second of the night for Gala in the 82nd minute.

Chedjou was almost embarrassed in second-half stoppage time, as he flicked a free-kick from Jardel onto the top of his own net, but Benfica still succumbed to their first Group C defeat of the season.