LISBON – Renato Sanches received a standing ovation from Benfica fans after he scored against his old club to inspire Bayern Munich to a 2-0 win in their opening Champions League fixture on Wednesday.
Sanches, who has endured a torrid few years since leaving Benfica for Munich as an 18-year-old in the summer of 2016, capped a fine performance in Lisbon with the first goal of his Bayern career.
“I'm so happy to have had a night like this in Lisbon, and I want to thank the Benfica fans,” Sanches told Sky. “It was a very special moment for me and I enjoyed it a lot.”
The young Portuguese's second-half goal crowned a perfect Champions League debut in the dugout for Bayern coach Niko Kovac.
Bayern took the lead after just ten minutes.
Franck Ribery's cross found Robert Lewandowski in the box, and the Polish striker whipped the ball into the bottom corner.
Ribery and James Rodriguez both snatched at chances to make it 2-0, but Benfica slowly found their way back into the game, and Eduardo Salvio forced a sharp save from Manuel Neuer just before the half hour mark.
In what remained a remarkably open first half, Arjen Robben missed a fine opportunity to double Bayern's lead on the counter-attack, firing his shot straight at Benfica goalkeeper Odisseas Vlachodimos.
Having been booked earlier in the half, Joshua Kimmich breathed a sigh of relief just before half-time when the Bayern right-back appeared to knock over Franco Cervi from behind, but the referee waved away the penalty appeals.
The second half belonged to Sanches, who burst out of the blocks after the break.
Having denied Benfica with a brilliant tackle at one end, the Bayern midfielder then found the net at the other.
Flicking the ball out wide to Robben, Sanches then found space in the box and gratefully bundled in James’s cross at the far post to make it 2-0.
“It has not always been easy for Renato since he came to Bayern but tonight he had a massive game. I take my hat off to him,” said Kimmich.
Benfica could have pulled a goal back at a free-kick minutes later, but Neuer kept out Ruben Dias’ header with a fine reflex save.
The home side failed to truly test Neuer again, though Gabriel, Alex Grimaldo and Andrija Zivkovic would all fire shots wide.
Agence France-Presse (AFP)