03/12/2022

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Juventus eliminated as Benfica wins 4-3 to advance in CL

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — For the first time in nearly a decade, Juventus has failed to advance from the Champions League group stage.

Rafa Silva scored twice as Benfica handed Juventus its fourth loss in five matches with a 4-3 win Tuesday to seal a spot in the knockout stage.

In a wild first half, Benfica got goals from António Silva, João Mário and Rafa Silva while all Juventus could produce was a momentary equalizer from Moise Kean.

Silva — who recently announced his retirement from Portugal’s national team and will not play at the upcoming World Cup in Qatar — added another goal early in the second half and also hit the post in the 86th.

Arkadiusz Milik pulled one back for Juventus in the 77th and Weston McKennie added another two minutes later, with both late goals set up by substitute Samuel Iling-Junior.

“It’s difficult to find words now. We are really disappointed,” said Juventus midfielder Manuel Locatelli. “In the last 20 minutes we showed we can be a great team and we have to restart from that. The initial approach was wrong. We risked a bad defeat but the reaction in the final 20 minutes was good at least.”

Paris Saint-Germain, which beat Maccabi Haifa 7-2 to also advance, and Benfica lead Group H with 11 points each. Juventus and Maccabi have three points each and will fight for third place and a Europa League spot.

Juventus visits PSG and Maccabi hosts Benfica in the final round of group matches next week.

It’s the first time Juventus has failed to advance since the 2013-14 season.

The exit from Europe’s top competition came a day after Juventus learned that club president Andrea Agnelli, vice president Pavel Nedved and CEO Maurizio Arrivabene are among 15 people placed under investigation for alleged false accounting and irregularities in player transfers following a notification from the public prosecutor’s office in Turin.

Juventus issued a statement Wednesday denying any wrongdoing with its finances.

It’s also an embarrassment for one of the few remaining clubs clinging onto the idea of a European Super League.

And Juventus faces a struggle to return to the Champions League next season. While the Bianconeri have won two straight in Serie A, they still sit in eighth place in the Italian league — with only the top four finishers qualifying.

“The first part of the season was certainly not good for us,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. “But we have to react. We made too many mistakes tonight but it’s not useful to talk about that now. I’m happy for the youngsters, they all played well with the mental energy and the technique that we needed in that part of the game.”

Benfica went ahead 17 minutes in when 18-year-old center back António Silva headed past surprise Juventus starter Federico Gatti.

Kean then scored from close range but had to wait while the goal was initially waved off for offside before the decision was overturned by the VAR.

A debatable handball from Juan Cuadrado set up a penalty for João Mário and then Silva converted a backheel flick after an exchange with João Mário.

Silva’s second came when he sprinted past Leonardo Bonucci and chipped over the charging goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny.

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AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports