Benfica beats Maccabi Haifa in Champions League opener

Maccabi's Dolev Haziza, left, and Benfica's David Neres vie for the ball during the Champions League group H soccer match between Benfica and Maccabi Haifa at the Luz stadium in Lisbon, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022. (Armando Franca/AP Photo)

LISBON, Portugal (AP) -- Benfica defeated Maccabi Haifa 2-0 in the group stage of the Champions League on Tuesday, getting off to a strong start in its quest to repeat its good run from a season ago.

Rafa Silva scored with a volley in the 49th minute and Alejandro Grimaldo with a booming long-rage shot into the top corner in the 54th to give the hosts the opening win.

``It was a great goal by Grimaldo,'' Benfica coach Roger Schmidt said. ``It was important to score early in the second half. It was a tough game, difficult to find spaces. We had to be patient.''

Benfica reached the quarterfinals last season after advancing past a group that included Barcelona and Bayern Munich. It defeated Ajax in the round of 16 before losing to eventual runner-up Liverpool in the quarterfinals.

In the other Group H match on Tuesday, Paris Saint-Germain defeated Juventus 2-1.

Benfica latest signings, American defender John Brooks and German midfielder Julian Draxler, stayed on the bench.

Brooks warmed up to come in near the end of the first half after Nicolas Otamendi got injured, but the team captain stayed in the game.

Benfica started in the third qualifying round for the second straight season.

Maccabi had waited 13 years since its last appearance in the Champions League.

``Of course I am disappointed, we had our chances but didn't take them,'' Maccabi coach Barak Bakhar said. ``The pace was higher than what we are used to, but we will make our corrections and come back ready for the next match.''

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