Roger Schmidt lauded Benfica’s self-belief after his side clinched top spot in their Champions League group in thrilling fashion.
Benfica had already qualified from Group H ahead of Wednesday’s trip to Maccabi Haifa, though having drawn both of their games with Paris Saint-Germain, they needed a huge improvement to their goal difference to beat Christophe Galtier’s side, and did what was required by claiming a 6-1 victory.
At 5-1 up, with PSG beating Juve 2-1, Benfica were set to finish second and would be more likely to be handed a tie against one of Europe’s heavyweights.
However, Joao Mario scored in stoppage time to make it 6-1, and Schmidt believes it is exactly what his squad deserves.
“I congratulated the players, they played a fantastic game, they played at a great level,” Schmidt told reporters.
“We actually did not manage to beat PSG in terms of points, but in the end we were ahead on away goals,” he said.
“The players deserved it, [we played] our campaign in the best way. We wanted to finish first, we believed in ourselves. We looked at the points, but also at the goals. It is a great achievement to achieve this. The players deserve it.”
Five second-half goals proved to be the difference in Israel and Schmidt highlighted momentum as the key, with Benfica scoring six times in a UEFA competition for the first time since September 1991.
“The objective was to win. We respected the opponent, it was not easy to face Maccabi, then we had our momentum with the fourth, the fifth goal,” he added.
“They knew what they could do, then we gave our all for the sixth goal. It’s a moment and an opportunity to achieve something important.
“They believed, they knew about the difference. It was the moment, it was our form, there was momentum from the team.”
Benfica have gone through a Champions League group stage unbeaten for only the third time ever (W4 D2), also doing so in 1994-95 and 2011-12, topping the group in each of those seasons.
While they will avoid the likes of Manchester City, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or Chelsea, Benfica could face any of Liverpool, Club Brugge, Inter, Eintracht Frankfurt, Milan, RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund in the last 16.