LONDON: Chelsea will face a rematch with holders Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final after making harder work of seeing off Benfica than the quarter-final second leg scoreline suggests.
The Blues won 2-1 on the night for a 3-1 aggregate success after winning in Lisbon a week ago but, in the closing minutes Benfica – despite being down to 10 men – were level at 1-1 and pressing harder for their own winning goal.
Benfica played the better football in the opening stages and Brane Ivanovic had once to clear off the Chelsea goal-line. However, in the 19th minute, Javi Garcia tripped Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard converted the penalty. Maxi Pereira was one of the Benfica players booked for dissent and that proved fatakl when, after 39 minutes, he was booked again for a foul on Mikel. That also meant a red card.
As the second half drew on without Chelsea pressing home their advantage so Benfica threw caution to the wind. Keeper Petr Cech rescued Chelsea with a magnificent save to an 84th-minute save from Djalo only for Javi Garcia to head home the corner for an equaliser on the night.
Benfica threw players forward in desperate pursuit of a winning goal only to be caught on the counter-attack in stoppage time by Raul Meireles – formerly of Benfica’s domestic ‘enemies’ Porto.
The other semi-final saw Real Madrid stroll to a 5-2 win over the minnows of APOEL Nicosia in the Estadio Bernabeu. That meant Madrid progressing, 8-2 overall, to a semi-final meeting with Bayern Munich.
Cristiano Ronaldo (two), Kaka, Jose Maria Callejon and Angel Di Maria scored for Jose Mourinho’s men with Gustavo Manduca and Esteban Solari (penalty) replying for the Cypriot surprises.
Solari’s goal was the first time Madrid have had a penalty scored against them in all competitions this season.
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