Costa scores twice to hand Benfica victory

London, August 15:

Two-time European champion Benfica won and Lazio was held to a home draw on Tuesday in the third qualifying round of the Champions League.

Benfica, which won Europe’s most prestigious competition in 1961 and 1962, beat FC Copenhagen 2-1, while Lazio had two men sent off and drew 1-1 with Dinamo Bucharest in Rome. Rangers beat visiting Red Star Belgrade 1-0 through a 90th-minute goal, while Valencia overwhelmed Sweden’s Elfsborg 3-0.

The winners over two matches will advance to the August 30 draw for the lucrative group stage, where they will be joined by Europe’s top teams such as AC Milan, Manchester United, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.

Rui Costa scored Benfica’s winner — his second of the night — in the 86th minute to give his side a crucial lead heading into the second match of the two-leg meeting on August 29. Costa put the Portuguese team ahead in the 25th minute. But Benfica paid for its clumsy defending 10 minutes later when Atina Hutchinson poked the ball into the corner from close range.

Lazio, which is trying to return to the group phase for the first time since the 2003-04, fell behind in the 22nd minute when Ionel Danciulescu headed a long cross past goalkeeper Marco Ballotta and into the top corner of his net.

Massimo Mutarelli levelle with a header from the center of the area in the 54th. Lazio is the only Italian club in qualifying. Inter Milan and AS Roma qualified directly for the group phase. AC Milan enter as the defending champion.