Above anything else, Benfica were immense. Their Argentinian contingent, especially, were outstanding. With playmaker Pablo Aimar running rings around a static Everton midfield, Angel Di Maria providing a stream of threatening crosses and lighting up the game with his skill, as well as Javier Saviola applying the most clinical of cutting edges, the Portuguese club were far too strong for their under strength opponents.
Of course it was Oscar Cardozo, of Paraguay, who sparked Everton’s capitulation at the start of the second half with two goals in the space of 60 seconds, before Brazilian defender Luisao headed in a fourth just four minutes later. It was a veritable festival of South American exuberance and class.
But at the heart of it all was the aforementioned Di Maria. Although hardly an unknown given he started the match that took Argentina to the World Cup finals earlier this month, Thursday’s game may have been many supporters’ first introduction to the electric winger.
The rapturous crowd at the Estadio da Luz witnessed an illuminating display of brilliance from Di Maria, who is fulfilling the promise he first showed when setting the 2007 FIFA Under-20 World Cup alight in Canada.
Tormenting Dan Gosling at every opportunity, showcasing a crossing ability that would make David Beckham green with envy and pulling out all manner of tricks, Di Maria was a whirling dervish of ebullience and brilliance, and Everton just could not cope with him.
(Benfica 5 - Everton 0, 2009-10-22)