Benfica went into a slump at the worst time of the season, and it cost the team a spot in the Champions League semifinals.
The Portuguese club couldn’t end their winless streak and was eliminated from the European competition after a 3-3 draw at Inter Milan on Wednesday. Benfica needed to reverse a 2-0 loss from the first leg at home to make it to the semifinals for the first time in more than three decades.
It was the fourth straight match without a win in all competitions for Benfica, which before that poor run had lost only once all season and had won 13 of 15 matches.
Benfica had been one of the surprises of the Champions League this season, going on an unbeaten run to win a difficult group that included Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus. They then cruised past Club Brugge 7-1 on aggregate in the round of 16.
With a solid defense and a prolific attack, Benfica were seen as one of the teams to beat instead of one of the softer opponents ahead of the quarterfinals.
But the first sign of trouble came when Benfica lost at home to Porto in the Portuguese league. Then came the home loss to Inter in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals, and they lost again in the league at Chaves before the second leg against Inter — marking the first time since 2018-19 that Benfica lost three games in a row.
“We had a great Champions League, with only one loss in 14 matches, but unfortunately that loss came last week in a very important match,” Benfica coach Roger Schmidt said. “I saw my team fighting, being good in duels, winning many balls and pressing. I have nothing to point out to my players. We represented Benfica very well today and in the competition as a whole.”
Benfica, which won the European Cup in 1961 and 1962, last made it to the semifinals in 1990, when they eventually lost in the final to AC Milan. The team was playing in the last eight of the Champions League for the second consecutive season, having been eliminated by eventual runner-up Liverpool last year.
“The balance is very positive,” Benfica striker Gon?alo Ramos said. “We were among the best eight teams, played against some great teams in Europe and lost only once.”
Now the focus turns back to the Portuguese league, where Benfica can still save the season and avoid a historic collapse if they hold onto their four-point lead over Porto. Benfica have been at the top of the standings since the fourth game of the season, and not long ago had a double-digit lead over their closest rival.
“All we can do is to focus on the league, which now is our main objective,” Benfica defender Alejandro Grimaldo said. “We couldn’t advance in the Champions League but we gave everything we had. Now we’ll try to beat Estoril in our next league match and try to lift the league trophy.”