David Moyes was facing a team managed by a man called Jesus and destroyed by a footballer called Angel. With an entire team missing through injury, he needed a miracle.
What he got was the worst single defeat in Everton's European history, watched by the greatest number of supporters to have travelled abroad with the club since the Cup-Winners' Cup final of 1985.
However, in contrast to the 5-1 rout by Dynamo Bucharest that eliminated Moyes' team from the Uefa Cup 20 years later, the sense of humiliation may be all Everton's injury-ruined squad has to deal with on their return to Merseyside. They are still likely to qualify for the knockout stages, although on this evidence it is hard to see them progressing far into the Europa League or beyond Tottenham in Tuesday's Carling Cup tie.
Afterwards, the Benfica coach, Jorge Jesus, whose team have scored 50 times this season, summed up the scale of their victory by saying Benfica had overwhelmed a side that had finished fifth in "the best league in the world", and nobody watching Angel Di Maria, whom Moyes called a "throwback to another age of wingers", torment Everton's back four, could possibly argue.
There were two 21-year-olds on the pitch and it would be an understatement to suggest that Di Maria had a better match that Seamus Coleman, who was making his debut in the most unpromising circumstances – after Leighton Baines broke down to become the 11th member of Moyes' squad to become injured.
The young Irishman was out of position for Benfica's first three goals, which like the final coup de grâce, was set up by crosses from Di Maria, the magical, free-flowing footballer from Rosario who is unlikely to remain at the Stadium of Light for the whole of his six-year contract, but who will cost anyone else around £40m to buy.
Benfica have built up a formidable list of victims in this impressive stadium; Manchester United and Liverpool have both been knocked out of the European Cup here in recent seasons, but they have rarely devoured their opposition with such relish.
Moyes was right to argue that Everton had done well to keep the interval scoreline to a single goal – a Di Maria cross driven home by Javier Saviola – but the collapse when it came, in six inexplicably dreadful minutes, was numbing.
Dan Gosling, the other teenager guarding Everton's flanks, failed to prevent Di Maria from driving in his cross and both times Oscar Cardozo, a forward who has interested Manchester City, beat Coleman to the ball. Pablo Aimar, totally eclipsed by his fellow Argentine, delivered the free-kick that Luisao headed into the roof of the net and, with 52 minutes gone, the only question was how many.
Before the game, Moyes had said he would take a point in Lisbon. After an hour, he would have taken 5-0.
Benfica (4-1-3-2) Julio Cesar; Amorim, Luisao, Luiz, Peixoto; Javi Garcia; Ramires, Aimar (Martins, 68), Di Maria; Cardozo (Coentrao, 77), Saviola. Substitutes not used: Quim, Maxi Pereira, Weldon, Nuno Gomes, Sidnei.
Everton (4-1-3-2) Howard; Gosling, Hibbert, Distin, Coleman; Rodwell; Cahill, Fellaini, Bilyaletdinov (Saha, 58); Yakubu (Baxter, 71), Jo. Substitutes not used: Nash, Duffy, Agard, Baxter, Wallace Akpan.
Referee: N Ivanovov (Russia).Reuse content