Benfica, Haifa, Plzen cruise into Champions League group stage

David Neres of Benfica and Illya Zabarnyi of Dynamo Kyiv in action during the UEFA Champions League Play-Off Second Leg match between SL Benfica and Dynamo Kyiv at Estadio da Luz on August 23, 2022 in Lisbon, Portugal.

Benfica’s David Neres scored a superb goal as the Portuguese side reached the Champions League group stage with a 3-0 victory over Dynamo Kiev in Lisbon on Tuesday for a 5-0 aggregate win.

Nicolas Otamendi and Rafa Silva also scored in the first half and Benfica qualified for the Champions League 12th time in 13 seasons.

Israeli side Maccabi Haifa snatched a 2-2 draw at Red Star Belgrade and earned their passage to the group stage 5-4 on aggregate after an own goal from substitute Milan Pavkov in the final minute.

Aleksandar Pesic and Mirko Ivanic had put the Serbian side ahead in the tie but it was in the balance again when Daniel Sundgren pulled a goal back for Haifa just before halftime.

It looked headed for extra time until the unfortunate Pavkov turned the ball into his own net in the 90th minute. It is the first time Haifa have reached the group stage since 2009.

Czech outfit Viktoria Plzen also booked a place in the lucrative group stage as they came from behind to beat visitors Qarabag 2-1 and win the tie by the same score on aggregate.

Second-half goals from Jan Kopic and Jan Kliment handed Plzen the win after Filip Ozobic had put the visitors in front after 38 minutes.

The 2022/23 UEFA Champions League group stage draw will take place in Istanbul, Türkiye, on August 25.

The draw will feature 26 automatic qualifiers and six playoff round winners. According to the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), no team can play a side from their own association.

The 2022/23 Champions League final will take place on June 10, 2023, at Istanbul’s Atatürk Olympic Stadium.

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