Liverpool FC moved within a step of reaching the first UEFA Europa League final, and perhaps redeeming a difficult season, with a 4-1 quarter-final second-leg victory over Portuguese Liga leaders SL Benfica.
Rafael Benítez's team overturned Benfica's 2-1 first-leg lead with two goals in seven minutes midway through the first half from Dirk Kuyt and Lucas. Fernando Torres added a third in the 59th minute and although Óscar Cardozo's free-kick gave the visitors hope, Torres struck again to send Liverpool into a semi-final against his old side, Club Atlético de Madrid.
Benítez had said in his programme notes that Liverpool, chasing a ninth straight home win in all competitions, might need to be patient and so it proved in the opening stages against a Benfica side composed in possession. Yet once they found their stride, Liverpool took control. Kuyt struck first when he got in front of Júlio César to head in Steven Gerrard's inswinging corner.
Lucas made it two after 34 minutes, racing on to Gerrard's defence-splitting pass and rounding Júlio César before slotting in. Benfica's only notable threat before the break came when Carlos Martins' free-kick fell to Sidnei beyond the far post and the defender fired the ball low across goal where it passed through Lucas's legs before deflecting behind off Yossi Benayoun.
Liverpool got their third with an impressive breakaway. Javier Mascherano found Benayoun in the inside-left channel, he fed Kuyt on the opposite flank and the Dutchman's first-time cross was turned in by Torres. Cardozo, scorer of two penalties in the first leg, got home nerves jangling when he drilled a free-kick through the Liverpool wall and past Pepe Reina. His next dead-ball effort deflected just wide and instead Torres made sure of Liverpool's 15th UEFA competition semi-final appearance after being sent clear by Mascherano eight minutes from time.
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