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Cardozo double helps Benfica clinch final berth

Published: Thursday 2 May 2013, 22.59CET
SL Benfica 3-1 Fenerbahçe SK (agg: 3-2)
A Dirk Kuyt penalty put the visitors back on top after Nicolás Gaitán's early opener, but a pair of Óscar Cardozo strikes sparked euphoria for Benfica.
by Andy Brassell
from Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica

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Published: Thursday 2 May 2013, 22.59CET

Cardozo double helps Benfica clinch final berth

SL Benfica 3-1 Fenerbahçe SK (agg: 3-2)
A Dirk Kuyt penalty put the visitors back on top after Nicolás Gaitán's early opener, but a pair of Óscar Cardozo strikes sparked euphoria for Benfica.

SL Benfica reached their first final of the UEFA Europa League era after a tense win against a determined Fenerbahçe SK side at a noisy Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica.

Nicolás Gaitán's early goal levelled up the aggregate score, but Dirk Kuyt's penalty for Aykut Kocaman's side left Benfica needing to score twice. Óscar Cardozo's fine finish got the home side back on track before half-time, and the Paraguay forward struck again midway through the second period to book Jorge Jesus' team a place in the May 15 final against Chelsea FC.

Fenerbahçe arrived in Lisbon having conceded just once in three away games in the knockout stages, but faced an intense atmosphere right from the start. Scorer of the only goal in the first leg, Egemen Korkmaz quickly excelled to block Lima's effort from close in, but Benfica did not have to wait long for their breakthrough. With nine minutes gone, Lima sent in a low ball from the right, and Gaitán dispatched it into the far corner with a sublime finish using the outside of his foot.

Benefiting from the return of the energetic Enzo Peréz in midfield, the home side continued to heap pressure on their Turkish rivals, so Fenerbahçe's equaliser came as a shock. Ezequiel Garay was penalised for handball and Kuyt kept his cool admirably to send Artur the wrong way from the spot.

The away side were exultant, but Benfica reacted strongly and retook the lead on 35 minutes. Cardozo was fed by Peréz's quickly taken free-kick and shifted the ball onto his favoured left foot before slotting past Volkan Demirel from the edge of the area.

With Benfica needing to score again, the game opened up into a thrilling spectacle. Kuyt hit the side netting from Caner Erkin's cross, before Nemanja Matić sent a drive spinning narrowly off target.

Cardozo was quickly back in the action after the interval, curling just beyond the post, and Lima then flicked just wide after a Gaitán dribble. Fenerbahçe finally cracked when Eduardo Salvio's long throw found its way to Cardozo's feet, and he fired in his 32nd goal in UEFA club competition. Artur was forced into a sharp low stop from substitute Miroslav Stoch, but Benfica saw out the final minutes to seal their passage to Amsterdam.

Last updated: 04/05/13 0.02CET

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