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Rediff.com  » Sports » UEFA Champions League: Benzema, Kaka strike late to sink APOEL

UEFA Champions League: Benzema, Kaka strike late to sink APOEL

Last updated on: March 28, 2012 11:30 IST

Kaka slotted home the second goal

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Karim Benzema and Kaka scored late goals to give Real Madrid an emphatic 3-0 win at APOEL Nicosia in the Champions League quarter-final first leg on Tuesday.

The nine-times European champions dominated the match but APOEL, the first Cypriot side to reach the last 16 of Europe's premier club competition, defended solidly to frustrate their Spanish opponents until the last 15 minutes.

The arrival of Kaka as a substitute midway through the second half created the breakthrough, the Brazilian producing a superb cross from the left for the diving Benzema to head powerfully home after 74 minutes.

Kaka slotted in the second goal from eight metres following a surging run down the left by his fellow substitute Marcelo and Benzema struck again in the last minute to put the La Liga leaders firmly on course for the semi-finals.




Image: Madrid's Kaka (C) is congratulated by team mate after scoring a goal against APOEL during their Champions League quarter-final first leg soccer match at GSP stadium in Nicosia
Photographs: Yorgos Karahalis/Reuters

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Benzema scored a brace

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Benzema missed a golden opportunity to open the scoring late in the first half, the French striker inexplicably directing the ball over the bar from close range with the goal gaping.

Cristiano Ronaldo caused problems without going close to scoring and it needed the introduction of Kaka to provide the spark for Real.

The playmaker cleverly set up the first goal for Benzema with a pinpoint cross and clinically converted Marcelo's cutback before Mesut Ozil crossed for Benzema to tap in his second.

"It took us a long time to open the score but that had a lot to do with our opponents who played very well," Real coach Jose Mourinho told reporters.

"They don't have the outstanding individual talent that other teams in the Champions League have but in terms of organisation and character they are fantastic," the Portuguese added.

"They created many difficulties and I think we won the game because we played well. What they did was fantastic, and we had to play at optimum strength to win, they were fantastic on defence and they deserve our respect."


Photographs: Yorgos Karahalis/Reuters

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Kalou strike gives Chelsea victory at Benfica

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A second-half goal by Salomon Kalou handed Chelsea a 1-0 win over Benfica in the first leg on Tuesday.

The Londoners always appeared in control and Kalou grabbed the only goal in the 75th minute, tapping the ball in from close range after excellent work down the right by Fernando Torres and Ramires.

"This was a very good result. We knew the difficulties we were going to face and now we will take the game back to London where we will have the support of our fans," said Chelsea centre back David Luiz.

"Nothing is won yet but we showed a lot of maturity and experience," added the Brazilian who was signed from Benfica in a big-money transfer 14 months ago.

Kalou's goal vindicated the decision by interim coach Roberto Di Matteo to start the Ivory Coast forward in place of England international Daniel Sturridge who was rested from the starting lineup along with Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, Michael Essien and Gary Cahill.


Image: Chelsea's Juan Mata (top) congratulates team-mate Salomon Kalou after scoring a goal against Benfica during their Champions League quarter-final first leg soccer match at the Luz stadium in Lisbon
Photographs: Hugo Correia/Reuters

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It was Chelsea's first away win this season

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Juan Mata had also gone close for Chelsea on the hour when he rounded keeper Artur Moraes but struck the post from an acute angle.

Mata then had a late chance to put the tie beyond Benfica's reach ahead of the second leg at Stamford Bridge on April 4.

The Spanish playmaker was set free on the left with four minutes to go after substitute Sturridge sprinted away down the right but his tame left-footed chip went wastefully over the bar.

Defender Jardel had Benfica's best chance midway through the second half when his close-range header was acrobatically saved by Petr Cech.

The home team, European Cup winners in 1961 and 1962, were unlucky not to score in the 47th minute when a rocket shot from Cardozo struck David Luiz on the goal line before bouncing to safety.

Kalou's late goal gave Chelsea their first away victory in this season's competition and inflicted Benfica's first home defeat in 11 European ties.


Image: Chelsea's Fernando Torres (R) kicks over Benfica's Luisao
Photographs: Hugo Correia/Reuters

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