Club Brugge were always going to up against it when they travelled to Lisbon following their 2-0 first leg defeat against Benfica. There is a club motto, however, that is meant to inspire the players in black and blue to fight against the odds and give their all. The fans demand ‘No Sweat No Glory’. Scott Parker, when appointed, said he wanted to bring meaning back to the motto. In Benfica, the club showed none of that.
Benfica opened the scoring during Club’s best moments of the game, but after that it was all the hosts. With the side 2-0 down at half-time, 4-0 down on aggregate, the second half started with what looked like Parker throwing in the towel. The sides most potent attacking player of recent weeks in Noa Lang was taken off in favour of defensive midfielder Raphael Onyedika. Saving Lang for a more important battle for the top four may have been wise, but bringing on a more defensive player over young attacking prospects like Antonio Nusa will have done nothing to cheer up the sides frustrated fanbase.
Despite the more defensive approach, Club continued to be completely out classed by their Portuguese opponents in the second half. Benfica added three more, with Bjorn Meijer grabbing the definition of a conciliation goal late on. 5-1 on the night, 7-1 on aggregate. Benfica are a better side than Club Brugge, but not by that wide of a margin.
It was a far cry from a team that had beaten Porto in the same country 4-0, as well as a side that had beaten Atletico Madrid. BT Sport co-commentator Steve McManaman was scathing, saying it had been a step too far for the side. However, this lacks the nuance of context.
They had earned their place in the knock-out round by their excellent group stage performances, but since the end of that campaign they have been inconsistent. Recently, they have taken just 12 points out of a possible 30 in the league and are clinging on to a place in the top four. Parker was under pressure following their 3-0 defeat to relegation threatened Oostende at the weekend, and while beating Benfica was never realistic, the poor performance in Portugal will have done nothing to help his cause.