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Rediff.com  » Sports » Chelsea see off Benfica, meet Barca in semis

Chelsea see off Benfica, meet Barca in semis

April 05, 2012 07:46 IST

Chelsea nervously beat Benfica 2-1 in their Champions League quarter-final second leg at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday to seal a 3-1 aggregate victory and set up a semi-final with holders Barcelona later this month.

Real Madrid completed an 8-2 aggregate, thrashing of APOEL Nicosia, in the night's other match, that is unlikely to have taught Bayern Munich very much that they did not already know about their Champions League semi-final opponents.

Jose Mourinho's men maintained their 100 percent home record in the tournament this year with a 5-2 second leg win at the Bernabeu against the valiant but limited tournament debutants.

Leading scorer Cristiano Ronaldo bagged a brace, including a swerving and dipping free-kick, to take his season tally to 49

Cristiano RonaldoKaka curled in a sumptuous long-range effort, the busy Jose Callejon came off the bench to notch Madrid's fourth and Angel Di Maria continued to work his way back to full fitness after injury as he came on at the end to lob a fifth.

The La Liga leaders have scored 100 goals in their 30 league matches and in Europe have racked up 32 in 10 so far.

Chelsea doubled their aggregate advantage when Frank Lampard scored a 21st-minute penalty and their grip on the game tightened five minutes before halftime when Benfica skipper Maxi Pereira was sent off for a second yellow card after a lunge.

Javi Garcia headed in from close range on 85 minutes to prompt an edgy finale for the Londoners before Raul Meireles struck in stoppage time.

Roberto Di Matteo's team have now reached the semi-final for the sixth time in the last nine seasons.

However, they have made only one final and have never won the competition.

Benfica began with all guns blazing and although they came close to scoring at regular intervals, Chelsea defended superbly.

Defender John Terry, who later went off injured, was forced to clear a shot from Oscar Cardozo off the line while goalkeeper Petr Cech made a superb diving save from Pablo Aimar at the start of the second half.

Chelsea's breakthrough came when makeshift defender Garcia clattered into Ashley Cole to concede a clear penalty and Lampard scored from the spot, although Artur got a hand to the ball.

Benfica, who won the second and last of their two European Cups 50 years ago, came into the match having scored in all of their away games in the competition and seemed intent on keeping that record intact.

They finally scored after spells of pressure through Garcia, - when Cech could have done better - before going close to a sensational winner which would have put them through.

However, Chelsea broke upfield and Portuguese Meireles blasted home to end his compatriots' hopes and send Stamford Bridge into delirium.

Photograph: Reuters

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