SL Benfica will face Portuguese Liga rivals SC Braga in the UEFA Europa League semi-finals after wrapping up a 6-3 aggregate victory over PSV Eindhoven – though they did not have it all their own way in the Netherlands.
With Guus Hiddink at the PSV Stadion alongside the players he guided to glory over Benfica in the 1988 European Champion Clubs' Cup final, the home side burst out of the blocks. Inside 25 minutes a three-goal deficit was down to one after Balázs Dzsudzsák and Jeremain Lens struck, but the comeback trail ran cold after Luisão's exquisite effort gave the visitors breathing space right on half-time. Óscar Cardozo's 63rd-minute penalty made absolutely sure.
Such an outcome looked far removed in the early stages as Benfica surged forward. Nicolás Gaitán volleyed an acrobatic effort just over and only Andreas Isaksson's alertness, rushing off his line, denied Javier Saviola an opening. Yet the Dutch side brought the tie to life with their first serious attack. Lens galloped free down the right and his low centre was rammed in at the far post by Dzsudzsák.
Eight minutes later hope turned to belief among the home support as Lens ran onto an Otman Bakkal through ball and beat Roberto at the second attempt when the ball cannoned back to him off Javi García. Fred Rutten's men were in the ascendancy, and it was Benfica captain Luisão who eased the mounting pressure on his team, expertly hooking Isaksson's tipped clearance in off the bar.
The Swedish international goalkeeper prevented the Eagles from restoring parity when his fine diving save halted Gaitán's shot on the hour. It brought only a temporary reprieve, and Isaksson was powerless to stop Cardozo's penalty, awarded after Marcelo had tripped César Peixoto in the box.
It left PSV needing to score four and the game was effectively over as a contest: a couple of long-range efforts from Lens and Bakkal was all the Dutch side could muster. Their attention now switches towards the Eredivisie; for Benfica, a ninth European final is within their grasp.
©UEFA.com 1998-2011. All rights reserved.