May 18, 2014, 9:44 PM EDT
They may have been narrowly beaten in the Europa League final, but Benfica didn’t keep their heads down for long.
An early goal from Nicolas Gaitan was all they needed as they held off Rio Ave for the second time in a final this year to win the Portuguese Cup and complete a domestic treble.
Portuguese Primeira Liga champions by seven points, Benfica earlier this year won the Taca da Liga (League Cup) – also over Rio Ave, by a 2-0 scoreline – for their fifth victory in the competition in the last six years.
“The beginning of the season was difficult because of what happened last year, but we found strength where there was not any,” said today’s goalscorer (pictured, right), noting they were tired but dug deep. “We played 120 minutes on Wednesday and it was hard, but the team deserved to win today.”
Gaitan was not far off. Rio Ave looked to derail their hopes of a domestic sweep with a swarming second half, but they couldn’t pull it out. Rio Ave coach Nuno Espirito Santo said he believed they deserved a better result, and Benfica coach Jorge Jesus didn’t disagree.
”We wouldn’t have had the energy to chase the goal if we hadn’t scored in the first half,” Jesus said. “We were dead in the second half. The players were worn out.”
The win not only secures a wonderful domestic season, but also means they came a penalty shootout away from an ultra-rare quadruple.
With their domestic table finish, Benfica will again resume play in the Champions League next year. They were agonizingly dumped from the group stage on goal differential, behind Olympiacos by just two goals, but they picked themselves up in the Europa League and found their way to penalty kicks in the finals.
For a great example of a club that doesn’t stay down for long, look no farther than this year’s Benfica bunch.
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