Spartak Moscow claimed a crucial 2-1 victory in their Champions League Group G clash with Benfica on a freezing cold night at the Luzhniki Stadium.
Rafael Carioca gave Unai Emery’s side an early lead in just the third minute of the match, but Lima levelled against the run of play for the visitors.
Spartak needed the three points after two successive defeats, and an own goal from Jardel two minutes before half-time gave the hosts a valuable and deserved victory.
The Russian side suffered their second straight league loss and third successive defeat in all competitions at Anzhi Makhachkala at the weekend – their worst run since November 2009 – but the win sees them move above Benfica into third place behind Barcelona and Celtic. Jorge Jesus’s side are still without a win.
Artem Rebrov made his European debut in goal for Spartak, with Andriy Dykan only fit enough for a place on the bench after a month out injured; meanwhile, Aiden McGeady and Emmanuel Emenike were also both injured and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov and Jano Ananidze replaced them.
Spartak have won just one of their last 15 home matches in the Champions League group stage, but they began with energy and purpose as Benfica were immediately forced onto the back foot.
Benfica goalkeeper Artur was forced into a fine save in just the second minute as former Everton winger Bilyaletdinov ghosted into the box to meet a decent cross from Brazilian Ari, only for Artur to palm away his header at the near post.
Carioca put Spartak into the lead seconds later as he flew forward to finish coolly after a slick counter-attack from the hosts as Jose Manuel Jurado applied the final pass.
Benfica had to wait until the 15th minute before launching a real attack of their own as Rodrigo fired a vicious shot from the edge of the box, with Rebrov making a fine save to tip the ball over the crossbar.
The hosts should have doubled their lead midway through the first half after Ananidze delivered a pinpoint delivery from the right, and Ari met it at the back post, but saw his stabbed shot rebound off the crossbar.
Spartak would be left to rue their profligacy in front of goal as Lima popped up to level the scores for Benfica as he pounced from close range to head past Rebrov from Eduardo Salvio's precise free-kick from out on the right. It was very much against the run of play, but drew the Portuguese side level.
Benfica did not manage to hold parity for long, however, as Makeev whipped over another stupendous delivery from the right, and Jardel inadvertently turned the ball beyond his own goalkeeper under pressure from Ari to allow the hosts to deservedly restore their advantage.
The hosts continued to create clear-cut chances as Ananidze twisted and turned with superb footwork before cutting the ball back to Ari, who backheeled on target with Artur able to save with the opportunity spurned.
It was to be the excellent Ananidze’s last contribution before he was withdrawn with an injury and Kirill Kombarov was introduced for Emery’s side, while Oscar Cardozo and Nicolas Gaitan were called upon by Benfica.
The visitors should have levelled for a second time in the match as Salvio stormed through on goal with just Rebrov to beat after a poor back header, but his hopeful effort drifted agonisingly wide.
Spartak preserved their slender advantage in a tense final period of play to claim a vital three points, while Benfica have now won just one of their last seven Champions League matches.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Jano Ananidze - Spartak Moscow: The midfielder provided a cutting edge for his side in the final third with his poise and creativity before his evening was cruelly cut short after picking up an injury in the second half. A distinguished display.
SPARTAK MOSCOW: Rebrov 6, Pareja 6, Suchy 6, Makeev 7, Rafael Carioca 7, Jurado 7, Källstrom 7, D Kombarov 6, Bilyaletdinov 6, Ananidze 8, Ari 7. Subs: Bryzgalov 6, K Kombarov 6, Welliton 6.
BENFICA: Artur 6, Maxi Pereira 6, Garay 6, Jardel 5, Bruno Cesar 7, Matic 6, Perez 6, Lima 7, Salvio 6, Rodrigo 6, Melgarejo 6. Subs: Gaitan 6, Cardozo 7, John 6.