Renato Sanches scores on his Benfica return as Bayern wins
LISBON, Portugal (AP) — All Renato Sanches needed was some home comfort.
Sanches finally showed why Bayern Munich gave him one of the richest contracts in Bundesliga history in 2016, ending a two-year scoring drought with his first goal for the team — on his return to the club where he had his breakthrough.
Sanches netted the second goal in Bayern’s win over Benfica on Wednesday to help give the German club a 2-0 win in their Champions League opener.
Sanches had started to look like a lost talent after failing to settle in Munich and enduring an unsuccessful loan spell at Swansea, but the 21-year-old was given a second chance to live up to expectations by new Bayern coach Niko Kovac, who gave him his first start for the side since last August.
“What he did in pre-season was extraordinary. His time came today. Renato has very good technique. We knew he could play football. That’s why Bayern signed him,” Kovac said.
Sanches repaid his coach by starting and finishing a well-worked move to net Bayern’s second goal in the 54th minute. He first powered his way through the midfield and passed to Robert Lewandowski on the left. The ball made its way to Franck Ribery and James Rodriguez, who crossed for Sanches to score from close range.
“I’m so happy to come back to Lisbon and to play this game is special for me,” said Sanches, who was applauded by the home supporters after scoring his first goal in a competitive club game since January 2016. “I just want to say thank you to the Benfica fans.”
Lewandowski had given the five-time European champions an early lead, converting Bayern’s first real chance after Ribery and David Alaba combined to set him up.
Arjen Robben could have added to the score minutes later but failed to beat Benfica goalkeeper Odisseas Vlachodimos in a one-on-one. He was denied again five minutes before the break, when Vlachodimos deflected the Dutch winger’s effort over the bar.
Eduardo Salvio had the home side’s best chance of the half, but Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer saved his shot.
Sanches ended his former side’s hopes of an upset and gave Kovac a winning start on his debut in the competition.
The Portuguese midfielder was making his first start for Bayern since returning from a season on loan at Swansea.
“You have to remember he’s a young player that left his country, that left his family,” Kovac said of Sanches’ difficulties in settling in Munich.