The UEFA Champions League play off 2021/22 is still one step away but the road to there is often intriguing. The two-time UCL winner, Benfica, seems to have less challenging path and they are already halfway to face off PSV Eindhoven. Yet, Glasgow Rangers and Olympiakos have a different story as their seemingly easier path could potentially stumble them and end their Champions League campaign, whereas the 2004 runner up Monaco is set for the next round.
In this midweek’s fixture of UCL third qualifying round, Jorge Jesus’s men managed to crush Spartak Moscow 2-0 on the road in a fairly tight match, Both sides were trading attacks and several opportunities but Benfica’s threat were better and pushed the home side’s defence to strive in blocking them. Their opener finally came on 51st minute through Rafa’s close range’s strike. Gilberto then extended their lead through a goal from the similar defensive side of Spartak. This victory should put Jan Vertoghen and Co at ease although they can not just relax as the Russian side would still attempt to make a comeback, however unlikely.
Spartak Moscow vs Benfica 0-2
Goals: Rafa (51), Gilberto (74)
Spartak Moscow: A Maksimenko – A Lucas, Georghi Dzhikiya, N Rassakov, S Gigot – Jordan Larsson (Alex Kral 77), Jorrit Hendrix (Ezequiel Ponce 77) N Umyarov, Roman Zobnin (Mikhail Ignatov 59) – Alexander Sobolev, Zelimkhan Bakaev (Victor Moses 68)
Benfica: O Vlachodimos – Jan Vertoghen, L Verissimo, Nicolas Otamendi, Alex Grimaldo (Gil Dias 84) – Diogo Goncalves (Gilberto 65), Julian Weigl, Joao Mario – Pizzi (Everton 65), Rafa (Adel Taarabt 83), Haris Seferovic (Goncalo Ramos 37)
At the play-off stage, Benfica would be meeting PSV Eindhoven. The Dutch side is also one step away to go through after dismantling FC Midtjylland 3-0. The English youngster Noni Madueke opened the scoring followed by Mario Goetze’s and Cody Gakpo’s goal. It would be a repeat of 1988 Champions League final which led PSV their first and only European top flight silverware up to this day.
In the meantime, Glasgow Rangers were beaten by Malmoe FF 1-2 while Olympiakos, Red Star and Dinamo Zagreb could only muster a 1-1 draw at their home turf while playing host to Ludogorets Razgrad, FC Sheriff Tiraspol and Legia Warsawa. They are less fortunate than Monaco and Shakhtar Donestk which managed to pick up an away win over Sparta Prague and Genk. All teams will be facing off again next week on the second leg. So, would Steven Gerrard’s men be able to overturn their disadvantage or would they have to go down to Europa League again? Only they themselves can decide their own continental campaign and it starts by a two-goal victory in Ibrox as one-goal win would not be enough due to the abolishment of away goal rule starting from this season.