By Jeff Lemieux – Staff Writer & Online Host
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Just 10 days after securing its 32nd Portuguese Liga title, SL Benfica had reason to celebrate once again on Wednesday night at Gillette Stadium. Four different players scored goals to lead the Portuguese champion to a 4-0 win over the New England Revolution in an international friendly on a rain-soaked night in Foxborough.
Filipe Menezes, Sidnei and Cesar Peixoto gave the visitors a 3-0 lead before halftime, while Alan Kardec rounded out the scoring with the goal of the match shortly after the break, blasting a long-distance free kick just inside the right post.
The win improved Benfica’s all-time record against the Revolution to 3-0-0, as the Portuguese club also defeated the Revs in a pair of friendlies in 1998 and 2003.
Revolution head coach Steve Nicol put out the same backline which started last weekend’s 0-0 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes, while the midfield and forward lines had a bit of new look. Trialists Ivan Gvozdenovic and Jean-Baptiste Fritzson both earned spots in the starting lineup, with Gvozdenovic taking up a central midfield role alongside Chris Tierney and Fritzson playing up top next to Zack Schilawski.
The third trialist, 2010 MLS SuperDraft selection Jason Griffiths, started the match on the bench before entering at halftime.
Chances were limited in the opening 10 minutes as both teams adjusted to their unfamiliar opponents and the wet surface. As Benfica became accustomed to the slick field, however, the visitors began to control much of the possession.
The Portuguese champion came inches from opening the scoring with the game’s first real chance in the 12th minute, but Javier Saviola’s first-time shot from eight yards skimmed just past the right post.
It took just three more minutes for Benfica to break through, however, as Menezes capped a powerful solo run through midfield with a 20-yard blast into the lower right corner, giving his side a 1-0 lead.
The advantage was doubled two minutes later when Benfica capitalized on a set piece. Peixoto received a short corner kick on the left wing and whipped a curling cross into the box, where Sidnei expertly flicked a header just inside the right post.
Peixoto was involved again when Benfica made it 3-0 in the 32nd minute, this time scoring the goal himself. The Portuguese defender delivered a teasing cross from a free kick on the left wing, and when Kardec stepped over the ball at the near post, it fooled the defense and goalkeeper Preston Burpo, as the ball slipped just inside the far post untouched.
While Burpo was beaten by Peixoto’s shot, he came up huge to beat away Eder Luis’ 30-yard blast in the 41st minute, as Benfica threatened to make it 4-0 before the half.
The Revs struggled to generate many chances in the opening 45 minutes, with Schilawski’s deflected 28th-minute shot providing their most dangerous attack. The deflection wrong-footed Benfica goalkeeper Julio Cesar, but the ball looped just over the bar.
As expected, the Revolution made wholesale changes to start the second half, bringing on six new players. In addition to goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth, field players Joseph Niouky, Zak Boggs, Kenny Mansally, Nico Colaluca and Griffiths all entered the match.
Despite the changes for New England, the second half began much in the way the first ended, as Benfica extended its lead to 4-0 in the 53rd minute. It was yet another set piece which did the damage, as Kardec blasted a sublime free kick inside the right post from 25 yards out, giving Shuttleworth absolutely no chance.
The Revs responded with a few forays into the attacking third, with one in particular in the 63rd minute causing trouble, but Fritzson’s volley from 20 yards dipped over the bar