FC Barcelona's players had feelings of joy mixed with relief after winning a tense quarter-final second leg against SL Benfica to set up a meeting with AC Milan in the last four of the UEFA Champions League.
After Ronaldinho scored the opening goal in the 19th minute - 14 minutes after having a penalty saved - the home side were forced to work hard to secure victory, surviving two late scares as Ronald Koeman's team came close to grabbing a vital away goal. Domination of possession eventually told in the final minutes when Samuel Eto'o drove in Barça's second to make the tie safe and the celebrations could begin in earnest for the Spanish champions.
"The victory was fair, although there was a lot of nervousness because we knew an away goal would make things very difficult for us," said Cameroon striker Eto'o. "In the first leg we played really well but didn't take our chances. Today we worked hard and we have made it through." Goalkeeper Víctor Valdés concurred, saying: "With Simão's movement, Benfica could have equalised and we had to concentrate hard. Tactically, Benfica are very good defensively. They have players who take advantage of tactical moves and players who are very fast, like Fabrizio Miccoli."
Eto'o was keen to emphasise the team effort from the Catalan outfit and acknowledged that he had not had his best night after switching from his accustomed central role in a three-pronged attack to the left flank. "You shouldn't talk about the goals from me and 'Ronnie'," he explained. "They are Barça's goals. What counts is the win for Barça. It was not my best game. On other days I have played better on the wings, although people say I did well because I scored".
With their semi-final berth assured, some Barcelona players are already eyeing a possible encounter with Villarreal CF in Paris on 17 May. "I hope the final is all Spanish," Eto'o said, with Valdés adding: "Villarreal have made history for themselves and for their city. I can only congratulate them." Henrik Larsson, who will leave Camp Nou in the summer, offered a word of caution, however. "We have a lot of respect for Milan because they are a great team," the Swede said. It promises to be an intriguing tie.
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