In a so-called friendly that turned nasty at times in the first half, Portuguese league winners Benfica played Greek champs Panathinaikos to a 0-0 draw Sunday at BMO Field in Toronto.
Benfica’s David Luiz was sent off after collecting his second yellow card in first-half injury time as the game threatened to get out of hand.
After some shoving and punching ended the half, Benfica’s Nuno Gomes said the teams got together for a little chat at the intermission.
“We spoke altogether here at halftime,” said Gomes, who played 77 times for Portugal, scoring 29 goals. “In the second half you saw there was no problems. Things can happen like that in football sometimes. We talked and discussed the things and everything was OK.”
Panathinaikos midfielder Sebastian Leto was the most dangerous player in the first half and was the target of some hard fouls, one of which resulted Luiz’s first yellow card.
“There were some incidents but it was good at the end,” Leto said through a Spanish interpreter. “It was just because both teams wanted to win the game, so it was two incidents that happened just like that but at the end it was OK.”
Gomes blamed the officiating in the first half for some of the problems.
“I think maybe the referee in some decisions wasn’t fair for both teams,” he said. “It was a little bit confused at the end of the first half but nothing special I guess.”
The fisticuffs capped a half that included several hard fouls by both sides and some rough stuff after the whistle. Matters escalated when Benfica’s Sidnei was shown a yellow card in the 44th minute. Panathinaikos’s Elini Dimoutsos picked up a yellow of his own in the 45th before Luiz was then sent off for his second yellow.
Leto nearly put Panathinaikos on the board in the 29th minute but his point-blank shot was saved by Benfica goalkeeper Jose Moreira. Two minutes later, Benfica came close when Alan Kardec’s shot rolled just wide of the open corner.
Moreira had to come out of the penalty area in the 36th minute to clear a ball before Ante Rukavina could latch on to a long pass that would have given him a breakaway.
Despite being a man down in the second half, Benfica nearly scored with a free kick from Cesar Peixoto that almost carried Mario Galinovic into the net. But the Panathinaikos ‘keeper, who replaced Orestis Karnezis after the break, reached high to save the shot before regaining his balance.
Panathinaikos, coming off its first Greek league title in six years, had an excellent scoring chance in the 66th minute but Rukavina’s header clanged off the crossbar.
“It wasn’t a great match, but you know both teams are at the end of the season but the most important thing for us is to deal with the Portuguese fans that live here,” Gomes said. “So I think they are happy to see us here. In the second half with one man out we tried to do our best and the result was fair at the end of the game.”