Portuguese powerhouse Benfica and storied German side Borussia Dortmund featuring America’s rising star Christian Pulisic provided Pittsburgh fans with an entertaining showcase of the world’s game on Wednesday night at Heinz Field.
After a full 90 minutes of action, the teams finished regulation tied 2-2, and in a penalty kick shootout designed specifically for this International Champions Cup preseason tournament, Benfica won, 4-3.
Benfica set the tone early, showing little rust despite only arriving in Pittsburgh late Sunday night, by dominating possession in the early stages with some fabulous passing. Dortmund’s back line were up to the task to deny Benfica from finishing any chances inside the box.
“We were very enthusiastic from the beginning,” Rui Vitoria, Benfica manager, said. “We were proactive, and looking to control the game.”
Dortmund’s tenacious high press along with it’s quick striking power though neutralized Benfica’s positive start. The Yellow and Black generated a pair of goals from the foot of Maximillan Philipp in a two minute span beginning in the 20th minute.
Dortmund’s new coach Lucian Favre, who may have his fan base wondering if he is going to be in the market for an additional striker, got exactly what he needed from his man in the top spot on this night in Pittsburgh.
Both of Philipp’s goals originated from the left side as Dortmund struck quick and with precision.
Philipp was set up each time with service from Jacob Braun Larsen and 2014 German World Cup hero Mario Götze,
Favre was pleased with his club’s showing in its third match in five days, as they defeated the English champs, Manchester City, 1-0 in Chicago, and then beat Liverpool 3-1 on Sunday in Charlotte.
“Good things today. We score nice goals and played good one-touch football,” Favre said. “We moved the ball pretty nicely, and then eventually got the young players involved with substitutions.”
The most prominent young player on the field, Christian Pulisic, started the match and didn’t disappoint the Heinz Field crowd, an underwhelming 16,717.
Many came out to see the 19-year old who was positioned in his familiar wide right spot, in his new coach’s 4-1-4-1 formation.
Photo by David Hague
There were multiple impressive sequences involving the Hershey, PA native, particularly following Philipp’s brace.
Maybe the most impressive came when he took the ball into the box with great pace, then did a quick stop and restart six yards from the end line. In a quick millisecond, Pulisic finished his run right to the line then delivered a bending, out swinging cross to the far post area that was on target for teammate Larsen in the 39th minute.
He would do it again in stoppage time, this time blowing past Benfica’s Alejandro Grimaldo.
— جاسم اللحدان (@J_AlLahdan) July 26, 2018
The Heinz Field crowd showed its appreciation, giving the PA-born rising star a very loud ovation.
“He was very good. Has a lot of potential,” Favre said.
One half of play would be enough in this preseason tournament finale for Pulisic, as he and many of his teammates in Dortmund’s starting eleven would give way in the second half to a number of substitutes getting in much needed game action for Favre to evaluate.
Benfica would battle back in the second half, exposing Dortmund’s second wave of players with similar goals in the 51st and 69th minutes by André Almeida and Alfa Semedo, from the right side of the box.
Both shots slid past Dortmund keeper Marwin Hitz just inside the left post.
“After halftime, we made some adjustments, and were more patient in the second half,” Vitoria said. “Like to point out that Borussia (Dortmund) is a very interesting team. They are very strong. And have done well to this point in the tournament.”
The teams would battle to the end of regulation knotted up in a 2-2 deadlock, but a fun twist from this International Champions Cup preseason tournament provided the opportunity to decide a winner in penalty kicks.
Benfica’s young guns outlasted Dortmund’s in the shootout, 4-3, as Eduardo Salvio clinched the win and earned his club two points in the tournament.
Dortmund finished its trip to the U.S. in Pittsburgh adding a point in the ICC competition, finishing with seven points overall in its three games.
“It was a good test for us. It was very intense and physical match. They are a good team. Always in the Champions league and second in Portugal. We were really pushing to make it 3-2. There was a lot of positives today, and it was a good experience for us,” Favre said.
Both teams are eager to have bounce back seasons in 2018-19, after coming up short in their respective domestic leagues. Each coach came away feeling pretty good about their respective teams’ showings in Pittsburgh.
While Dortmund will fly back to Germany in the morning, Benfica will carry on to its second ICC match, at Red Bull Arena on Saturday afternoon, against Italian stalwart Juventus, minus Christiano Ronaldo.
Vitoria squad’s U.S. trip got off to a good start with an exciting, challenging game in the Steel City.
“We were very satisfied with the performance, and the result gave justice to how well played and came back. We played with high degree of personality, of confidence and quality,” Vitoria said. “It was a pleasure being here, everything was first rate, and we will not forget our passage here through Pittsburgh.”
David Hague Photo Gallery
- M. Philipp 20 (Assists: J. Bruun Larsen, M. Götze)
- M. Philipp 22 (Assists: M. Götze)
- André Almeida 51 (Assists: Pizzi)
- A. Semedo 69
— Borussia Dortmund (@BVB) July 26, 2018