rediff.com

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  

Rediff News  All News 
Rediff.com  » Sports » CL: Chelsea thwart Benfica challenge, Real have it easy

CL: Chelsea thwart Benfica challenge, Real have it easy

Last updated on: April 5, 2012 10:44 IST

Chelsea thwart Benfica challenge, Real have it easy

     Next

Next

If Chelsea flirt with danger against Barcelona like they did at home to Benfica on Wednesday, their poor conversion rate of one Champions League final from five previous last-four appearances is likely to continue.

- Chelsea see off Benfica, meet Barca in semis

Chelsea, who looked second best for long periods, went through to their sixth semi in the last nine seasons after winning 2-1 in the second leg and 3-1 on aggregate but they were close to losing the tie on away goals in the closing stages.

Instead the Londoners made it safe in stoppage time through a thunderbolt from Portuguese Raul Meireles, heckled in the first leg at Benfica last week for his previous Porto connections.

Chelsea took the lead with a Frank Lampard penalty after 21 minutes and had the chance to take a firm grip on the game when Benfica skipper Maxi Pereira was shown a second yellow card for a rash challenge on John Obi Mikel five minutes before halftime.


Image: Frank Lampard (left) of Chelsea celebrates with team mates after scoring a penalty during their quarter-final agianst Benfica on Wednesday
Photographs: Clive Rose / Getty Images

     Next

Chelsea allowed Benfica to take the initiative in 2nd half

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

But instead Chelsea allowed Benfica to take the initiative for much of the second half and although the Premier League side did have chances, it was the visitors who got the important second goal when Javi Garcia headed home on 85 minutes.

That made the aggregate score 2-1 to Chelsea but another goal for Benfica would have brought them level at 2-2 and they would have qualified instead.

Substitute Nelson Oliveira and Pablo Aimar both went close to getting the goal that would have eliminated Chelsea but in the last significant action of the game, Chelsea broke.

Substitute Meireles ran unchallenged for almost 70 metres before smashing the ball past Artur to seal Chelsea's place in the last four as they seek a first ever European Cup title.

Image: Pablo Aimar of Benfica is closed down by Chelsea's Mikel as their vie for possession during their match on Wednesday
Photographs: Warren Little / Getty Images

Prev     Next

'We weren't helped by some poor referring decisions'

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Benfica coach Jorge Jesus said: "We've been the best team in Lisbon and London and even though we played most of the match with 10 men tonight, we made Chelsea look ordinary.

"We pushed them back into the final third and after coming back to 1-1 we nearly scored with a couple of really good chances, but in the end suffered on the last counter-attack and were finally beaten.

"But we go out as the better team with our heads held high. Of course it is frustrating to lose but we weren't helped by some poor referring decisions either."

Benfica had 22 goal attempts with eight of them on target compared to Chelsea's 15 with four on target and if they had grabbed a second in the dying minutes, the hosts would only have had themselves to blame for not wrapping up the victory earlier.


Image: Benfica's Maxi Pereira is shown the yellow card during their Champions League match against Chelsea on Wedneday
Photographs: Stefan Wermuth / Reuters

Prev     Next

'We are pleased we won the game to go through'

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Chelsea's interim coach Roberto Di Matteo -- whose odds of earning the permanent job get shorter every day -- knew his side were slightly fortunate but also knows Champions League glory is all that really matters to owner Roman Abramovich.

"We expected a hard game and we made it a little more difficult for ourselves by not scoring the second goal from all our chances in the second half," the Italian said.

"We did not keep possession enough with the extra man and we were not as sparkling as we could have been. But we are pleased we won the game to go through and over the two legs I think we were the better side and deserved to win it."

Benfica started -- and finished -- as the brighter, more attacking, more cohesive side but Chelsea went ahead when Lampard scored a penalty after Garcia clattered into Ashley Cole.

Lampard converted even though Artur got a hand to the ball.


Image: Raul Meireles of Chelsea celebrates his goal against Benfica on Wednesday
Photographs: Clive Rose / Getty Images

Prev     Next

'Cech was their best player, that says a lot'

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Benfica were then reduced to 10 men after Pereira recklessly picked up a second booking but the Portuguese responded strongly after the break with Aimar forcing Petr Cech into one of a number of fine saves.

"Cech was their best player, that says a lot," said Jesus.

Chelsea did defend well especially when their skipper John Terry, who went off after an hour as a precaution after taking a knock, cleared a shot from Oscar Cardozo off the line in the first half.

While there is little doubt Chelsea's results and displays have improved since Di Matteo took over from the sacked Andre Villas-Boas a month ago, with seven wins out of nine, they still look short of flair and imagination.

Striker Fernando Torres, who has at least started scoring again, worked tirelessly but is still misfiring in front of goal while Ramires summed up their erratic play when he trod on the ball and heeled it away -- a metre out from an open goal.


Image: Chelsea's Ashley Cole challenges Benfica's Bruno Cesar during their match on Wednesday
Photographs: Clive Rose / Getty Images

Prev     Next

Chelsea lost to Barca in an acrimonious semi-final three years ago

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

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 Champions League away games and went out with that record intact but it was little consolation.

Chelsea though, having protected their own formidable home record, are left relishing facing Barcelona again after losing to them in an acrimonious semi-final three years ago.

"They are one of the best teams in the world and have reached the final and won the trophy many times and we are looking forward to it," said Di Matteo.


Image: Benfica's Javi Garcia heads to score against Chelsea on Wedneday
Photographs: Warren Little / Getty Images

Prev     Next

Real's thrash APOEL 5-2

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Real Madrid completed an 8-2 aggregate thrashing of APOEL Nicosia on Wednesday 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 freekick, to take his season tally to 49

Kaka 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.

Image: Real Madrid's Kaka celebrates after scoring against APOEL on Wedneday
Photographs: Felix Ausin Ordonez / Reuters

Prev     Next

'We are well prepared for a difficult April'

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

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

"The team are in good shape and we are well prepared for a difficult April," coach Jose Mourinho said.

Having won 3-0 in Cyprus last week, and with a tough league clash at home to third-placed Valencia on Sunday, Mourinho was able to rotate some of his players, though as ever, Ronaldo started and finished.

Conceding two goals at home to the unheralded Cypriots, a breakaway from Gustavo Manduca that made it 2-1 after 67 minutes and a penalty given away by Hamit Altintop near the end, was of no particular concern to Mourinho.


Image: Real Madrid's players celebrate a goal during their match against APOEL on Wednesday
Photographs: Felix Ausin Ordonez / Reuters

Prev     Next

'APOEL's is the biggest achievement in the competition this year'

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

"I am not going to criticise anyone for the odd loss of concentration, because over the last two years this group of players have given their all," he said.

Mourinho, who is bidding to guide the world's richest club to a 10th European Cup triumph, and a fourth for himself with a fourth different team, predicted a classic encounter with Bayern.

"They are a great rival, very powerful at an institutional level and in football terms," he said,

"They are basically the same team I played two years ago with Inter Milan (when he beat them in the Champions League final).

Mourinho gave APOEL a glowing tribute. "Theirs is the biggest achievement in the Champions League this year. If Barcelona, Bayern or us go on to win, it won't be as big and achievement as theirs has been."


Image: APOEL's Esteban Solari celebrates after scoring against Real Madrid on Wednesday
Photographs: Felix Ausin Ordonez / Reuters

Prev     Next

'They were better than us but we leave satisfied'

Prev     More
Prev

More

APOEL bow out with the heads held high after grabbing two surprise goals which were loudly hailed by their colourful and raucous group of travelling fans.

"The final result was fair. They were better than us but we leave satisfied," APOEL coach Ivan Jovanovic said.

"The important thing is the result was not terrible and we managed to score as well. There were lots of goals and the fans will have enjoyed it."

"It's been a great year for us. We were the only team left who started out on the 12th of July. It was our 16th match and we don't have a big squad. We worked hard to get here and we deserved it. The Bernabeu was a fitting place to end our run."

Image: Real Madrid's Marcelo competes for an aerial ball with APOEL's Savvas Poursaitides on Wednesday
Photographs: Manuel Queimadelos Alonso / Getty Images

Prev     More
Source:
© Copyright 2013 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.