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Shaky Chelsea hold off ten-man Benfica

Published: Wednesday 4 April 2012, 22.49CET
Chelsea FC 2-1 SL Benfica (agg: 3-1)
Chelsea will face FC Barcelona in the last four after edging past a Benfica side who battled valiantly after Maxi Pereira's dismissal late in the first half.
by Trevor Haylett
from Stamford Bridge
Published: Wednesday 4 April 2012, 22.49CET

Shaky Chelsea hold off ten-man Benfica

Chelsea FC 2-1 SL Benfica (agg: 3-1)
Chelsea will face FC Barcelona in the last four after edging past a Benfica side who battled valiantly after Maxi Pereira's dismissal late in the first half.

Raul Meireles finally steered Chelsea FC safely into the UEFA Champions League semi-finals for the sixth time in nine seasons, although ten-men SL Benfica made them fight to the very end.

Frank Lampard's spot kick gave the London club a two-goal cushion in the tie and as well as the Portuguese side played following Maxi Pereira's dismissal five minutes before the break, it required a monumental effort to recover from there. They never gave up, equalising on the night through Javi García but Meireles scored in added time to book a reunion with FC Barcelona in the last four.

Benfica were forceful from the off and Lampard and John Terry had to be quick to the rescue with a couple of important block tackles with the visitors about to pull the trigger. At the other end Joan Capdevila followed suit, throwing himself in the way of David Luiz's shot as the defender peeled away unnoticed at the far post following a corner.

The visitors had the lion's share of the early possession but Chelsea always looked to carry a threat on the counter. Juan Mata got behind the defence to finish off a clever through ball but he had strayed offside. On 21 minutes Ashley Cole went charging forward and when he fell under Javi García's challenge the referee pointed to the spot. Lampard, making his 550th appearance for the club, stepped up and was relieved to see his effort just evade Artur's dive.

It was a twist that Benfica had feared. With a shade more composure they might already have found the net themselves; now they had two goals to retrieve. They responded well and after an exchange of passes in the penalty area, Óscar Cardozo fired goalwards only to find Terry well placed on the line.

Benfica's task became more difficult with the dismissal of Pereira, who received a second yellow card following a foul on John Obi Mikel. Nevertheless the ten men finished the half on the attack, with Pablo Aimar continuing to pose questions of the Chelsea rearguard.

Cardozo was soon back in the thick of things after the restart, demanding a full-stretch save from Petr Čech. It pre-empted a spell of heavy Chelsea pressure which should have yielded a second goal. Inexplicably Ramires failed to tap the ball over the line after Salomon Kalou had done all the hard work down the left.

Fernando Torres worked himself into a scoring position but Emerson was there in the nick of time to divert the ball for a corner. Then Mata brought a good save from Artur and Torres, following up, was not far wide with a difficult opportunity.

Benfica never gave up and they failed to capitalise from a number of good positions with Chelsea lacking Terry's authority after he hobbled off. Then, with five minutes remaining, Javi García headed in unchallenged from a corner to set up a frantic finale. Nélson Oliveira shot wide before Meireles settled things on the break with a rising drive.

Last updated: 25/09/14 5.40CET

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