Bayern Munich will take a slender lead into the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final against Benfica after Arturo Vidal’s early goal earned a 1-0 win over the resolute Portuguese side on Tuesday.
Benfica, aiming to reach the European Cup semi-finals for the first time since 1990, have conceded 13 goals in their three previous visits to Bayern and must have feared the worst when Vidal headed home after two minutes.
But the floodgates failed to open after that as the visiting defence stood firm on a frustrating evening for the hosts who beat Benfica’s arch-rivals Porto 6-1 at home at the same stage of the competition last season.
Five-times European champions Bayern had also found goals easy to come by in the Champions League this season, blasting 18 in their previous four home matches, but came up against some dogged defending as they pushed to extend their advantage.
Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski had a superb chance to add a second in the dying stages but bizarrely opted to try and pass to Philipp Lahm when through on goal and it was wasted.
“We only had a few good chances,” said Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. “Benfica’s defence did a good job, their four-man backline works pretty well. In the end we missed the chance to score a second goal but sometimes a 1-0 has to be enough.”
Bayern got off to the perfect start when Chilean Vidal got on the end of Juan Bernat’s cross to head past keeper Ederson.
That was not the cue, however, for the expected goal rush as Benfica, twice European champions in the 1960s, kept possession despite creating few real chances.
They could, however, have inflicted a punishing blow on the hosts midway through the second half when Jonas’s shot cannoned back of Bayern’s Javi Martinez when the goal was gaping.
Benfica, who came into the game in a rich vein of form having won 19 of their previous 20 games in all competitions, will believe they can cause an upset in next Wednesday’s return.
To do so they will have to break their duck against Bayern after Tuesday’s result made it five defeats and two draws in seven meetings with the Bavarians.
“We knew how difficult it is to play here against Bayern but when we had possession, we created our chances,” said Jonas. “We could have left with a better result but the tie is open.”