Arsenal should have won this and were the better footballing side, but poor finishing and bad luck saw a draw.
They were unchanged from the last game – the first time for two and a half years.
But they looked an embryonic team with a bit of fragility particularly in the first half here.
Benfica are an interesting mix of ex-Premiership players, Germans, South Americans and Portuguese nationals. They are a side with a big European pedigree including Eusebio v Best in the 1968 European Cup Final and they have been champions of Portugal 37 times.
The 1992 European Cup game was one of the most memorable at Highbury when Sven Goran Eriksen’s Benfica took George Graham’s Arsenal apart with two goals in extra-time knocking them out of the European Cup, with Isaias, Yuron, Thern and Stefan Schwartz prominent. Schwartz is still connected with Benfica.
Arsenal started brightly with Bellerin winning a corner on the right and Cedric crossing from the left.
Ceballos cut the whole Benfica defence out with a pass to Bellerin who set up Aubameyang six yards in front of goal – but he hit it wide.
In the first 25 there were five offsides, with Arsenal not fast enough on the through ball over the Lisbon Highline.
Arsenal kept possession and then Saka unleashed a bender, saved by Leite.
Nunez the Uruguayan striker had a chance on 31, set up be ex-Spurs player Taarabt, but he slipped.
There were warning signs that Benfica could break quickly on Arsenal from corners and set-pieces but they played mainly defensively, making sure they were in shape.
However, Bellerin got in again down the right – but no-one was making a near post run.
Xhaka sent a risky pass which set up a chance for Benfica in added time – reminding Arsenal fans a misstep always lurks under the surface.
The Swiss sent another loose ball at the start of the second – proving my point, leaving Ceballos having to foul to rectify it.
A great move saw Ceballos back-heel it to Saka who had a fair chunk of empty goal to aim at but he sent it past the post.
Cedric and Smith Rowe messed up a clearance leading to a corner, and from the one-two Smith Rowe blocked the cross with his chest but the ball ran onto his raised hand and he gave away a penalty. Pizzi hopped and skipped and sent it past Leno.
But Arsenal replied quickly when Odergaard got the ball back from Aubameyang and sent it inside the central defenders to Cedric who crossed to the unmarked Saka to tap in the equaliser.
The Norwegian then set up Aubameyang who beat Vertonghen in a foot race but fired just wide with his right.
On 63 Tierney made a welcome return for Cedric and Benfica brought on two internationals a Brazilian and a Swiss. The Scot brought a physical intensity to the play, which had a galvanising effect.
Odergaard moved more toward coming of age as an Arsenal player in this match with his range of passes, several of which sliced open the Benfica defence.
Aubameyang had his third great chance of the match with a long pass from Gabriel and instead of putting his foot through it opted to stop the ball and it was cleared.
Memories of the Olympiakos miss, last February came flooding back, particularly when coupled with the sloppy corner which led to their winner. He was substituted for Pepe. And Martinelli came on for Smith Rowe.
Tierney and Pepe linked up inside the Benfica area – but as said previously the Ivorian doesn’t know what his feet are going to do. And he sent it over the byline.
Saka said: “We had a lot of chances. We dominated the whole game. It wasn’t a penalty. But it’s not the worst result.
“I think I’m improving every game – the coach gives me a lot of good ideas and the senior players are helping me.”
Mikel Arteta said: “Yes – it was a missed opportunity. We had some big opportunities. [And ominously] In Europe you need to be ruthless.”
“We gave away the corner and didn’t react quick enough. But we had a great reaction, scored a great goal. Energy wise both teams dropped. We should have left with more.”
Benfica: 77Aleixo Leite, 4Verissimo da Silva (Substituted for Machado at 85), 30Otamendi, 5Vertonghen, 17Cupido Goncalves, 21Afonso Fernandes (Substituted for Sousa Soares at 64), 28Weigl, 49Taarabt (Substituted for Appelt Pires at 77), 3Grimaldo, 10Waldschmidt (Substituted for Ferreira Silva at 45), 9Núñez (Substituted for Seferovic at 64)
Arsenal: 1Leno, 2Bellerín, 23David Luiz, 6Gabriel, 17Cédric Soares (Substituted for Tierney at 64), 8Ceballos (Substituted for Elneny at 90), 34Xhaka, 7Saka, 11Ødegaard (Substituted for Willian at 90), 32Smith Rowe (Substituted for Martinelli at 77), 14Aubameyang (Substituted for Pépé at 77)