FC Astana 2-2 Benfica: Os Leixoes mount impressive comeback to qualify from group
Raul Jimenez scored both goals for Benfica (Source: ESPN FC)

Benfica progressed from the group stages of the UEFA Champions League after coming from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with FC Astana.

Even though the hosts managed to dominate the contest, the inexperienced side was unable to secure three points against a Benfica side that capitalised on their chances to avoid what would've surely been a defeat against a better team.

Patrick Twumasi and Marin Anicic scored for the hosts but a brace from Raul Jimenez allowed Benfica to escape with a draw, one which sends them into the last 16.

Impressive start as Astana dominated the first 30 minutes

The lowly side from Kazakhstan arrived to this game as massive underdogs but that wasn't noticeable in the first half as they looked pretty sharp, particularly on the attack.

Twumasi proved to be the team's biggest threat early on and his attacking runs on the wing were quite a problem for Benfica's defensive line.

The first goal didn't take long to arrive either as Astana broke the deadlock in the 19th minute. After Twumasi came close breaking the deadlock with a shot from inside the box, the Ghanaian finally capitalised when he nodded home a cross from Junior Kabananga to put the hosts in the lead.

Benfica tried to react but they didn't look accurate in the midfield zone, which led to Jimenez being quite isolated up front. Instead, Astana didn't take their foot off the gas and they added a second goal in the 31st minute when a free kick from Foxi Kethevoama was connected with by defender Anicic whose slight touch was enough to beat Julio Cesar.

Benfica answers nearing the half-time break

Benfica finally mustered up a clear scoring chance in the 35th minute when Pizzi blasted a shot from outside the box but, Astana's keeper, Nenad Eric, did brilliantly to parry the ball away.

Pizzi's chance would be an announcement of what was set to come as the Portuguese side pulled one back just before the break thanks to Jimenez, who nodded home a perfect cross from Jonas.

Despite Benfica's improved play in the final minutes, the first half ended with a 2-1 lead for Astana as the hosts managed to pull off a major upset during the first 45 minutes.

Astana started better in the second half...

Benfica tried to keep the momentum going in the second half but the match turned out to be quite close. Both teams committed heavy fouls in the early portion of the second 45 minutes - with both Jonas and Roger Canas booked - and it appeared as if neither side had enough clarity to pose a threat on the attack.

Still, Astana took control of the match on the hour with an intelligent display and a solid performance from their attackers. Kethevoama, Kabananga and Tsuwami continued to create spaces in the final third and Astana actually came close to adding a third goal, but the effort from Nemanja Maksimovic was parried away by Julio Cesar in spectacular fashion.

Benfica tried to spark things up with the entrances of Anderson Talisca and Andre Almeida, but the substitutions didn't have the impact the manager expected.

Instead, Julio Cesar was kept busy as he continued to emerge as one of the stars from Benfica when he denied Kabananga with a left-footed save after a huge mistake from the Portuguese side's defensive line with around 20 minutes to go.

...but Jimenez comes up big for the visitors

When Benfica were going through their worst stretch of the game, Jimenez equalised for the visitors. A low cross from Almeida on the right side wasn't struck properly but the ball found the striker who, somehow, managed to convert the cross with a poor touch that snuck into the far post as Eric was unable to react.

The final minutes saw Benfica drop deeper looking to protect the draw as they realised they weren't playing their best football. Astana, as a result, pushed forward with intensity but, while both teams had some chances to score the winning goal, the lack of quality in the final third prevented either from getting the three points.

Benfica managed to clinch a berth on the round of 16 with the 2-2 draw, although it's clear that the team needs to improve vastly if they want to progress further in the tournament.

Astana, on the other hand, looked really good in this game but they were far too naive and simply didn't have enough quality in them to hold onto their 2-0 lead and ended up settling for a draw instead.

Up next

Benfica will close their UEFA Champions League Group Stage campaign by hosting Atletico Madrid. Astana, on the other hand, will travel to Turkey to take on Galatasaray. Both games will be played on Tuesday 8 December.

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