Pep Guardiola praised match-winner Arturo Vidal after his early headed goal gave Bayern Munich a slender 1-0 win over Benfica at the Allianz Arena in the Champions League quarter-final first leg.
Vidal’s second-minute goal was all that separated the two teams on an evening when Bayern were unusually subdued for long periods and struggled to break down their opponents, who grew into the game as it went on.
On a night when the likes of Thomas Muller, Franck Ribery, Robert Lewandowski and Douglas Costa were largely kept quiet, Vidal, in his first season at the club after joining from Juventus, stood out in midfield by both providing a shield for the defence and helping start Bayern’s attacks.
Guardiola told Premium Sport after the game: “There are no doubts over Vidal’s quality. He knows how to make late runs, but he is also intelligent, gritty and always shows desire. I’m happy with his play.
“When we have many great players in the offensive department, I have to limit it slightly. He can easily do the work in front of the defence because he is a tough and smart guy.”
Vidal might have had a sceond goal before half-time but mis-timed a header when in a good position. However, the Chile international made amends in his own penalty area in first half stoppage-time, sliding in to block a goalbound effort from Nicolas Gaitan.
Guardiola hailed Benfica’s defensive unit as Europe’s best in the build-up to the game. While that was not evident early on as Bayern scored with their first attack, it held water as the match wore on.
“Benfica move so well and there wasn’t a lot of space for us in the middle of the park outside of the final 20 minutes of the first half,” said Guardiola.
“The early goal was important but we never lost concentration. We dominated and could have even doubled our advantage, but qualification will be decided over the course of the two matches. I expected this, it is normal.”
Asked if 1-0 was a dangerous result, Guardiola replied: “That depends on our performance in Lisbon. We will head there with the intention of winning.
“The result is close, but it’s okay. I’m very happy with the result because I know how good our opponents are. Credit to my team.”
Benfica limited the hosts to very few clear cut chances. Santana Ederson saved from Lewandowski shortly after the opening goal and blocked a Ribery effort with 10 minutes remaining.
Lewandowski then spurned a glorious chance to make it 2-0, rejecting the opportunity to shoot from Vidal’s through ball and instead over-hitting his attempt to tee-up Philip Lahm with the goal gaping.
Jonas Oliveira had Benfica’s best chances but the 32-goal forward shot straight at Manuel Neuer and later saw a effort repelled by substitute Javi Martinez just in front of his own goal line before snatching at the rebound and slicing the ball high and wide on the volley.
Despite the defeat. Benfica boss Rui Vitoria was content, he said: ”It’s all open. Bayern is one of the best teams in the world. But we will give in Lisbon our best.
”We had our problems, but our attitude was right. I’m very happy with our performance.”