UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final 1st leg
Benfica 0-1 Chelsea



Salomon Kalou struck with fifteen minutes to go to give Chelsea a crucial away goal in Portugal



By Adam Higgins
Chief Football Editor from Estadio Da Luz


Chelsea grabbed an important away goal though Salomon Kalou as they defeated Benfica 1-0 to take a vital lead from the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final.

After a slow first half, the match heated up in the second period when Jardel came close with a free header before Fernando Torres' weaved into the opposition penalty area to find Kalou in space to prod home untroubled with 15 minutes to go.

The home side lined up with reported Manchester United targets Nicolas Gaitan and Javi Garcia included in midfield alongside experienced Argentine Pablo Aimar, with Oscar Cardozo, who scored home and away against United in the group stages, leading the line in attack. On loan Real Madrid defender Ezequeil Garay and forward Yannick Djalo- a recent signing from Sporting Lisbon- remained sidelined through injury.

Roberto Di Matteo, however, opted to leave veterans Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and Michael Essien on the bench, with Fernando Torres starting up front and former Benfica man David Luiz at centre-back in place of Gary Cahill, with full-back Paulo Ferreira surprisingly given his first start of 2012 with Branislav Ivanovic injured and Portuguese international Jose Bosingwa left out.

The opening stages were cautious and scrappy, the game not seeing any sign of life until the 19th minute when Cardozo moved ahead of John Terry to take control of an overhead pass from Bruno Cesar, the tall Paraguayan attempting to volley it in but unable to find sufficient space and thusly shot wide.


Chelsea had only won once away in Europe since October 2010 prior to this game against FC Copenhagen last season during their winter break.

Cardozo remained the main target of Benfica’s attacks, first heading high from an awkward position before forcing Luiz to execute a difficult, but stylish, juggle of an attempted cross before he could clear the danger.

Ex-Porto man Raul Meireles, who was booed throughout by the home supporters, nearly capitalised with a long-range effort after Kalou teed him up.
The Ivorian advanced down the left before pulling it back into the Portuguese’s path, and the midfielder drew a fine low stop from Artur with his driven effort.Half-time then arrived with neither side finding a breakthrough.

The second period began with howls for handball. Benfica were forward in numbers for a long throw and Cardozo picked the ball up just outside the area. The Paraguayan unleashed a rasping left-footed shot bound for goal but Luiz reacted on the line to block, to the fury of the home fans who felt that he had handled.

Chelsea, though, should arguably have taken the lead a moment later. Torres continued his fine build-up play, this time cutting in from the left to dink a cross in for Kalou, who had stolen a crucial inch from his marker in the area, but the Ivorian’s header ballooned ineffectively wide.

After an optimistic penalty shout from Benfica, when Maxi Pereira’s shot cannoned back off Terry’s arm following an admirable Ashley Cole block, the Blues’ clearest chance arrived when Jardel failed to anticipate a long ball forward and allowed Juan Mata to run in behind him. The Spaniard circled Artur but was unable to apply the necessary finish, hitting the post fruitlessly as the angle closed.


It was Benfica's first home defeat in the Champions League this season at the nicknamed "Stadium of Light" while it was their first ever meeting with Chelsea.

Axel Witsel gave Cech a scare on 65 minutes when, having scrapped past John Obi Mikel, the Belgian’s shot deflected heavily off Terry. The keeper was motionless as he watched it land on top of the net.

Benfica kept coming, with Gaitan finding space on the flanks. One such delivery was swung onto the head of the unmarked Jardel, only for a subsequent poor header to follow.

Chelsea, though, found the vital away goal on 75 minutes. Ramires fought hard on the right of midfield, supplying Torres further forward on the wing. The Spaniard did most of the work, closing in with purpose before feeding Kalou in the middle. Artur was taken out of the picture so the forward needed only to poke home from mere yards to take the lead.

The home side pushed desperately to even the score but it allowed the Blues to break, substitute Daniel Sturridge stretching play before passing to Mata on the left. The Spaniard’s resulting lob lacked accuracy.

Benfica nearly grabbed the leveller deep into stoppage time when Cole was forced to stick a leg to block a cross causing the ball to divert just wide of his own goal.

Overall the home side lacked punch and Chelsea were able to see the game through to assume control of the tie which resumes at Stamford Bridge in the second leg next Wednesday night as a semi-final spot against the winners of AC Milan and Barcelona- who drew 0-0 at the San Siro in their first leg. 



Wednesday 28th March 2012

UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final 1st leg 

Estadio Da Luz


Benfica 0-1 Chelsea                                      KO 7:45pm                  (HT 0-0)

                Kalou 75


Benfica:  1 Artur- 8/10, 14 Pereira- 7.5/10, 4 Luisao (C)- 8/10, 33 Jardel- 7.5/10, 3 Emerson- 7.5/10, 6 Javi Garcia- 7.5/10 (Nolito 81- 1.5/10), 8 Bruno Cesar- 8/10 (Machado 69- 3/10), 10 Aimar- 6.5/10 (Matic 69- 2/10), 20 Gaitan- 6.5/10, 28 Witsel- 7.5/10, 7 Cardozo- 7/10.

Subs not used:  47 Eduardo, 27 Miguel Vitor, 16 Oliviera, 30 Saviola 

Booked:      Bruno Cesar (25), Luisao (67), Javi Garcia (74)

Chelsea:  1 Cech- 8/10, 19 Ferreira- 6.5/10 (Bosingwa 80- 1/10), 26 Terry (C)- 7.5/10, 4 David Luiz- 7.5/10, 3 Cole- 6.5/10, 12 Mikel- 6/10, 7 Ramires- 6.5/10, 16 Merieles- 6/10 (Lampard 68- 2.5/10), 21 Kalou- 7/10 (Sturridge 82- 1.5/10), 9 Torres- 7.5/10, 10 Mata- 6.5/10.

Subs not used:  22 Turnbull, 24 Cahill, 5 Essien, 11 Drogba

Booked:      Merieles (18)

My Man of the Match:      Luisao (Benfica)- Rating 8/10

My Poorest Performer of the Match:      John Obi Mikel (Chelsea)- Rating 6/10



Referee: Paolo Tagliavento (Italy)- 8.5/10
Attendance: 65,245



Match Facts

Possession: Benfica- 51%             Chelsea- 49%

Shots: Benfica- 22                Chelsea- 11

Shots on target: Benfica- 12                Chelsea- 4

Shots off target: Benfica- 10               Chelsea- 7

Corners: Benfica- 8                 Chelsea- 4

Fouls: Benfica- 9                 Chelsea- 16

Offside: Benfica- 0                 Chelsea- 4

Assists: Benfica- None              Chelsea- Torres



Benfica manager Jorge Jesus

"It is a new and improved side for us which has been developing over the past year. It is a young, fruitful and well-nurtured side that we have got here and I think we have had a great year. We were all looking forward to this game coming around and it is a great achievement in reaching the quarter-finals of the Champions League in comparison to last year where we were knocked out of the Europa League at the semi-final stage. We are bitterly disappointed to have lost a match that the statistics showed we had the better of- more corners, shots and possession- and especially beig at home as it leaves our chances of going through a little slim. Chelsea will be strong favourites for the second leg at home with the away goal and the lead in the tie but we gave it our best shot tonight and we will do so next week. We are playing against a good side, we are pleased to be paired with them and fancied our chances. We ran Manchester United close in the group stages and got a positive result in both matches so I am confident of doing better. Our ability to finish opportunities that we have fashioned needs to be better in the second leg though."



Chelsea interim manager Roberto Di Matteo

"We are glad to win the game because it is an incredibly difficult place to come and win let alone play football. Benfica are a good side in Europe and have got some great individually talented players with a fantastic technical ability. They probably had the better of the game, more chances, a better control in possession and more shots at goal which is a slight concern but the away goal and a lead in the tie is the most important thing. It was an excellent performance from us to restrict them in the final third and we were solid and compact in areas we needed to be. Salomon (Kalou) has been patient to get back in the side after a long spell out of the side. The best of him is beginning to come through and hopefully he can make more of a contribution between now and the end of the season. We were pleased to be drawn with Benfica but knew that they and whoever we got would be a tough tie to overcome. The second leg next week will favour us being at home but they will be fired up for it and are capable of scoring goals. We have been in positions like this in the past and wasted them so we are not resting on our laurels."


Click here to watch highlights of Chelsea's 1-0 Champions League win over Benfica

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