Stefan Kießling struck for the first time since 23 August, before Heung-Min Son curled home his first-ever goal in the competition. Eduardo Salvio pulled one back for the Portuguese outfit on the hour-mark, but a Hakan Calhanoglu penalty sealed an impressive, and comfortable, win for the Rhinelanders.
After some initial confusion with the team sheet, the hosts began the game with Son in the starting line-up in place of Josip Drmic, and it was the South Korean that forced the first save of the game in an exciting opening spell. He could only fire low and hard at the legs of Julio Cesar with Kießling well placed, but midway through the half, the German striker's luck changed as he tapped home after Cesar had spilled another Son effort.
Benfica simply had no answer to the Werkself's persistent pressing in all areas of the pitch, and with Cesar looking shaky, Bayer adopted a shoot on sight policy. Karim Bellarabi forced two good saves from the Brazilian international, but Son went one better on 34 minutes, expertly guiding a curling finish into the roof of the net from Bellarabi’s pull-back for his sixth of the season in all competitions.
Calhanoglu on the spot
The half-time break provided some respite for Benfica, but when the action got back underway Leverkusen continued to win the lion’s share of the second balls, playing with more pace and purpose both with and without the ball. It should have led to the hosts taking a three-goal lead, but after the industrious Bellarabi sped down the right wing and laid the ball on a plate for Calhanoglu, the 20-year-old could only scuff his shot wide from two yards.
That miss seemed costly when Salvio cracked a low drive inside the near post to bring the visitors back into contention, but any hopes of a comeback were snuffed out when Jardel felled Kießling in the box, allowing Calhanoglu to restore Bayer’s two-goal cushion from the penalty spot. Benfica threatened from set pieces late on, but Schmidt's men were always in control of the proceedings, and will feel confident of building on this result when they trail to FC Zenit on Matchday 3.
Leverkusen: Leno - Hilbert, Toprak, Spahic, Wendell - Bender (Donati, 81’), Reinartz - Son, Calhanoglu, Bellarabi (Öztunali, 69’) - Kießling (Drmic, 76’)
Benfica: Julio Cesar - Andre Almeida, Luisao, Jardel, Eliseu - Cristante (Maxi Pereira, 46’) - Perez (Samaris, 77’), Talisca (Lima, 46’), Salvio, Gaitan - Derley
Goals: 1-0 Kießling (25’), 2-0 Son (34’), 2-1 Salvio (61’), 3-1 Calhanoglu (pen 64’)