UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final 2nd leg
Chelsea 2-1 Benfica
     
(Chelsea win 3-1 on aggregate)

 

 

Frank Lampard converts the penalty in the first half which resulted in Joao Pereira's dismissal as Chelsea took charge against the Portuguese side

 

 

By Alex Byrom
Deputy Football Editor from Stamford Bridge


Chelsea will face Barcelona again in the semi-finals of the Champions League after a nervy 2-1 win over Benfica to reach their sixth semi-final in nine years.

Chelsea took the lead and doubled their aggregate score– after a 1-0 win in Lisbon last week– with Frank Lampard's first-half penalty after a push on Ashley Cole.

However, Chelsea had to hang on as they missed glorious chances and were nearly punished when Javi Garcia headed in – unmarked – five minutes from time. But former Porto star Raul Meireles smashed in a smashing goal in injury time to confirm Chelsea’s passage.

 

? DID YOU KNOW ?

Benfica have not won any of their last six games against English opposition. 

 

Chelsea's win sets up a repeat of the controversial 2009 semi-final when only Andres Iniesta's stoppage time strike at Stamford Bridge rescued Barcelona and prevented an all-Premier League meeting with Manchester United in Rome.

The Blues' performance here was hardly of the calibre to strike fear into the hearts of the holders and tournament favourites- indeed, for long spells, especially against ten men, Chelsea couldn’t finish it off – as many expected - but for caretaker manager Roberto di Matteo and his players it was mission accomplished.

Chelsea were boosted by the news that John Terry could start and boss Roberto Di Matteo decided to stick with ten of the eleven players that won 4-2 at Aston Villa on Saturday, meaning Fernando Torres started again up front. Terry was the only change– replacing Gary Cahill who was on the bench.

Yet their opponents had no such fortune. They were rocked by the news that both their central defenders were ruled out: one by suspension – having been booked last week; the other through injury.

In the game, their Portuguese opponents, who like Chelsea are a club in transition having lost all their best players in the last 18 months – created chances throughout but simply lacked the cutting edge to capitalise – a task made even more difficult by the first-half dismissal of captain Maxi Pereira after he received a second yellow card for a crude challenge on Jon Obi Mikel, although his first was a little harsh for dissent yet no Chelsea player was booked for similar fouls or aggression.

But while Chelsea may not have touched the heights, their rejuvenation under caretaker Di Matteo continues as they now contemplate another semi-final to go with their FA Cup date with Tottenham at Wembley.

It is a brutal reality, however, that they will have to display infinitely greater quality, patience and finishing than this to trouble Pep Guardiola's Catalan superstars as they battle for a place in next month's final in Munich as they won’t get as many chances to miss.

The visitors opened with ambition as they chased down the deficit from the first leg in Lisbon, with the gifted Pablo Aimar prominent.

The early momentum was halted, however, by the concession of a needless penalty after 21 minutes when Garcia barged Ashley Cole to the ground. Keeper Artur touched Lampard's penalty but it carried too much power. 

Benfica needed a swift response and almost got it through the dangerous Oscar Cardozo but his shot from the edge of the area was swept off the line by home Captain John Terry.

 

? DID YOU KNOW ?

No English side has ever lost a knock-out two-legged match in the Champions League when winning the first leg.

 

Passages of the first half had been niggly with referee Damir Skomina, who was refereeing the Portuguese side for the second time this year, and both in England after overseeing their 2-2 draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford in November, producing his yellow card at regular intervals. And it was red for visiting captain Pereira five minutes before the interval when, having been booked for protesting about the penalty, he received a second yellow for an ugly lunge at Mikel.

Even then, it took a fine save from Petr Cech to prevent Benfica drawing level moments after the restart, the Blues keeper showing great agility to claw away Cardozo's effort.

The game became increasingly stretched as Benfica's need for a goal became more urgent and seconds after Yannick Djalo's shot was deflected narrowly off target at one end, keeper Artur was forced to block at Kalou's feet at the other.

The visitors' threat finally brought a goal, courtesy of Garcia's glancing header in the 85th minute: He lost Luiz and Cech didn’t even get off the ground when he should have been claiming the ball from under his crossbar.

But just as the prospect of a dramatic turnaround materialised, so it promptly disappeared. Meireles – taunted by the visiting fans for his connection to rivals Porto – settled the tie.

He broke away as Chelsea cleared a Benfica free-kick, keeping his composure to flash a finish past Artur to confirm another meeting with old Champions League adversaries Barcelona just minutes after firing a similar chance well wide.

Out of the remaining four teams, Chelsea surely are fourth favourites: they have the fourth best squad, the fourth best manager (with no disrespect) and the fourth smallest ground, yet – as in all European games – it is a cup, and a cup is where shocks can occur. Can they do it? Find out next week for the 1st leg at Stamford Bridge… it’s going to be a classic; you wouldn’t want to miss it. 

 

 

Wednesday 4th April 2012

UEFA Champions League Quarter-Final 2nd leg

Stamford Bridge

 

Chelsea 2-1 SL Benfica                                         KO 7:45pm              (HT 1-0)

Lampard 21 (pen)     Javi Garcia 85
Meireles 90+2


Chelsea:
  01. Cech- 5.5/10, 02. Ivanovic- 7.5/10, 04. Luiz- 7/10,
 26. Terry (C) (Cahill 59 4.5/10)7/10, 03. Cole- 6.5/10, 12. Mikel- 6/10 (Keita 76- 2.5/10), 08. Lampard- 8.5/10, 07. Ramires- 7/10, 10. Mata- 8/10 (Meireles 79- 5.5/10), 21. Kalou- 6/10, 09. Torres- 6.5/10 (Drogba 88- 2/10).

Subs not used:  22. Turnbull, 19. Ferreira, 05. Essien, 23. Sturridge

Booked:      Ivanovic (39) ,Ramires (43), Mikel (79) 

 

Benfica:  01. Artur- 7/10, 03. Emerson- 5.5/10, 14. Peirera (C)- 4/10, 06. Javi Garcia- 7/10, 38. Capdevila- 6/10, 08. Bruno Cesar- 6.5/10 (Machado 72- 3/10), 10. Aimar- 7.5/10, 20. Gaitan5.5/10 (Djalo 61- 4/10), 21. Matic- 6.5/10, 28. Witsel- 5/10, 07. Cardozo- 7/10 (Oliveira 57- 6.5/10).

Subs not used:  47. Eduardo, 34. Almeida, 09. Nolito, 30. Saviola 

Booked:      Cardozo (19), Bruno Cear (20), Pereira (21), Aimar (27), 

Sent Off:    Pereira (40)


My Man of the Match:     Frank Lampard (Chelsea)- Rating 8.5/10

My Poorest Performer of the Match:     Maxi Pereira (Benfica)- Rating 4/10 

 

 

Referee: Damir Skomina (Slovenia)- 6/10
Attendance: 37,264

 

 

Match Facts

Possession: Chelsea- 41%              Benfica- 59%

Shots: Chelsea- 16              Benfica- 21

Shots on target: Chelsea- 6              Benfica- 13

Shots off target: Chelsea- 10              Benfica- 8

Corners: Chelsea- 4              Benfica- 5

Fouls: Chelsea- 16              Benfica- 11

Offside: Chelsea- 2              Benfica- 3

Assists: Chelsea- None              Benfica- Aimar

 

 

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