Recap – Benfica vs PSG at Toronto

PSG manager Laurent Blanc post match
PSG manager Laurent Blanc post match

A hot, humid summer evening at Toronto’s newly expanded BMO Field was the site of the only game on Canadian soil in this year’s International Champions Cup, presented by Guiness.

This year’s event, the third such annual event is a little more world-wide than the 2014 event, as it includes games in the USA, Australia, China and England as well as the game in Toronto. In 2015 there are 15 teams participating, including teams from England (Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United), France (Paris Saint-Germain), Italy (AC Milan, Fiorentina and Internazionale), Mexico (America), Portugal (SL e Benfica) and Spain (AS Roma, FC Barcelona and Real Madrid) as well as three teams from MLS (LA Galaxy, New York Red Bulls and San Jose Earthquakes).

The game in Toronto featured the oldest, most famous, storied club in Portugal SL e Benfica (“Benfica”) and French Champions Paris Saint-Germain (“PSG”). Benfica was formed in 1904 and has won 72 domestic and international club trophies in its long history. PSG was formed in 1970 by the merger of Paris FC and Stade Saint-Germain (also formed in 1904) and has competed in that country’s Ligue 1 since 1974. It is owned by Qatar Sports Investments and as such is the richest club in France and one of the richest in the world.

Rui Vitoria, manager of Benfica, speaks to the press
Rui Vitoria, manager of Benfica, speaks to the press

With Pan Am Games events taking place nearby, the atmosphere at BMO Field was noisy, with most of the announced crowd of 17,843 supporting Benfica as Toronto has a large Portuguese population. The majority of the crowd were wearing the famous cherry red shirts of Benfica and loudly cheered their heroes from the player introductions and for every move their favourites made.

For a preseason/exhibition fixture the game was lively and well played. Benfica controlled the play for most of the first half but the opening goal came from PSG’s Jean-Kevin Augustin in the 29th minute, totally against the play. Benfica answered fairly quickly with Talisca evening the score in the 34th minute. After re-grouping, Benfica seemed to get their confidence back after the equalizer and Jonas put the Portuguese side ahead in the 42nd minute. As we usually see in these games, half-time brought substitutions as both teams had extra players on hand. Benfica, with 30 players in uniform for the game made three changes but PSG stayed the course with their starters until the 66th minute. PSG brought a much smaller squad of 19 players.

Lucas Moura tied the game for PSG with a 64th minute penalty, which became a turning point in the game as PSG continued to gain confidence and that confidence was rewarded with Lucas Digne scoring the winning goal in the 79th minute when Benfica goalkeeper Paulo Lopes could not hold on to the ball. Digne was voted as the man of the Match. By the end of the game, Benfica had substituted all of its starters and PSG had used six of its eight available substitutes.

Both managers’ post-game press conference comments centered around the fact that their teams took the game seriously even though it was very early in their respective preseasons. Having seen many of these exhibition type games by top European teams in Toronto over the years, I would have to agree with both managers’ comments. PSG Manager Laurent Blanc was especially proud of his relatively inexperienced side, which included many young players who are considered key to the team’s future and who were brought along on the tour to gain experience.

The game was one of the better exhibition fixtures we have seen in Toronto over the years and a good advert for European soccer in Canada’s largest city.

tag: Benfica vs PSG – Toronto