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UEFA Champions League
28 March 2012
• Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica (da Luz), Lisboa
Referee: P. Tagliavento
• Attendance: 60000
Make sure you check out our match report and player ratings, and stay with our LIVE! text coverage of all of tonight's matches for all the reaction. Thank you for joining us, and good night.
That is Benfica's first defeat in ten Champions League matches and only their second home loss of the season in all competitions. The Blues will have aimed to keep themselves in this tie and maybe grab an away goal - they have done much more, and go into the second leg heavy favourites to progress to the semi-final.
Roberto Di Matteo is calm as the final whistle sounds, at least compared to his elated reaction after the Napoli second leg, but he can be absolutely delighted with that result. Chelsea were well-organised and disciplined tonight and they have reaped the rewards, with Salomon Kalou's second half goal enough to hand them a 1-0 win.
90' + 5'
FULL-TIME! Chelsea have secured a 1-0 win and find themselves in an excellent position ahead of the second leg at Stamford Bridge.
90' + 3'
Lovely move from Benfica. Nicolas Gaitan dummies a pass, Nolito anticipates his run with a nice touch and the midfielder is able to fire a cross into the Chelsea box but Ashley Cole is on hand to intercept.
90' + 1'
Maxi Pereira has not given up on this game and surges through the middle before laying a pass out wide to Nicolas Gaitan. His cross is met by headed behind for a corner, which Chelsea deal with.
Benfica look out of ideas here, really. Chelsea might be disappointed that they haven't pressed on more since that first goal, because the Eagles look demoralised. Five minutes have been added on, though - it's not over yet, especially with Oscar Cardozo still on the field.
I'm not sure what he's done, but it appears the Chelsea goalkeeping coach, Christophe Lollichon, has been sent off - he has just been sent down the tunnel back to the Blues' dressing room.
Wasted chance for Chelsea. They have a chance to put the tie to bed when Daniel Sturridge breaks down the right, but the former takes a little too long in picking out Juan Mata on the opposite flank. Instead of looking for a pass or cross, Mata tries to chip Artur and gets it all wrong, the ball harmlessly floating over the crossbar.
Goal.com's Luis Mira reports from the Estadio da Luz: "The Estadio da Luz has gone silent now, after Kalou found the back of the net for the Blues. Emerson, once again, was unable to do anything against Ramires. The Benfica faithful have expressed their anger at the Brazilian left-back, and more rightly so after this."
There has been lots of good individual performances for Chelsea tonight - each player looks like they know exactly what their role is and they have nearly all carried them out pretty successfully. Credit to Roberto Di Matteo, who has got the organisational side of this display spot on.
The ball breaks for substitute Nolito in the Chelsea box but he shoots over the crossbar.
Another substitution - it would be more helpful, from my point of view, if they could do them all at once. Daniel Sturridge is on for the goal scorer Salomon Kalou.
Nolito will be Benfica's last subsitute, replacing Javi Garcia. Nolito will offer more thrust and pace compared to Garcia, who has occupied a holding midfield role tonight.
Paulo Ferreira hasn't played much recently and is withdrawn for the fresh legs of Jose Bosingwa.
Chelsea must hold out for just over ten minutes to take a significant first leg advantage back to Stamford Bridge. They deserve plenty of credit for an exceptionally disciplined performance so far - Benfica have had the edge territorially, but not made much of it. The Blues, on the other hand, have looked threatening on the break.
Javi Garcia was booked for his challenge on Ramires as the Brazilian set Fernando Torres free. The former Real Madrid midfielder caught Ramires with a late sliding tackle.
Yellow Card Javi García
Assist Fernando Torres
Goal Salomon Kalou
GOAL! Benfica's lack of pace at the back is badly exposed here as Chelsea counter-attack down the right-hand side. Ramires breezes past Emerson and slides a pass down the flank to Fernando Torres, who easily outpaces Jardel. Torres advances into the box and fires a cross into the path of Salomon Kalou, who meets it on the volley from close range and converts beyond Artur. A huge boost for Chelsea.
Goal.com's Luis Mira reports from the Estadio da Luz: "Exciting start to the second half, as both teams got close to scoring. First, Juan Mata rounded Artur before seeing his shot hit the post, and then Jardel powered his header straight against Petr Cech. Both sides are looking to break the deadlock and the outcome of this match is unpredictable!"
Rodrigo nearly has an immediate impact, looking to slide a pass beyond John Terry into Oscar Cardozo, but Terry stretches to get a crucial touch and Petr Cech collects. Cardozo and the Benfica fans appeal for a back pass but it would have been very harsh.
Nemanja Matic was a Chelsea player, arriving from Kosice, before he left for Benfica as part of the David Luiz transfer. Rodrigo, too, has played in the Premier League, making 17 appearances for Bolton last season but only scoring once. His record for the Eagles is much better.
Three substitutions, one coming from Roberto Di Matteo - he replaces Raul Meireles with Frank Lampard in midfield. Jorge Jesus swaps Bruno Cesar and Pablo Aimar for Rodrigo and Nemanja Matic.
Yellow Card Luisao
Nicolas Gaitan crosses from the left and picks out Jardel at the back post - he has a free header, connects well and forces an excellent save from Petr Cech. Luisao has been booked for a lunging challenge on Ramires as Chelsea broke forward.
Axel Witsel advances into the Chelsea half and takes a shot that hits John Terry's boot and loops high in the air, dropping on the top of the Blues' goal. Petr Cech had to watch it.
Not too much happening for either side since Juan Mata's good chance. Pablo Aimar takes a free-kick from 35 yards out but it's headed clear without issue.
Chelsea show their ability to counter-attack by nearly opening the scoring. Juan Mata gets in behind Jardel to latch on to a long pass and rounds Artur, but his touch takes him too wide and he hits the post from a tight angle.
Decent break for Benfica - Axel Witsel gets down the right and the ball finds Maxi Pereira occupying the inside right channel of the Chelsea box. His volley is blocked and his second effort is blocked by the arm of John Terry - it was from very close range, but again, not a bad shout for Benfica.
A good spell of possession for Chelsea ends in a poor cross from Paulo Ferreira. Benfica have started pressing the Blues higher up the pitch in this half and it's worked fairly well.
Bruno Cesar can't get through down the right-hand side but the ball comes to Oscar Cardozo 25 yards out. With little space in which to get the ball out of his feet, Cardozo gets remarkable power on another left-footed shot but it's a comfortable save for Petr Cech. The Paraguayan has an absolute hammer of a shot.
Crosses come in from right and left for Benfica, first from Maxi Pereira and then from Nicolas Gaitan, but the Eagles can't really get anything on these balls coming into the box. Chelsea have dealt with them comfortably so far.
Luisao fouls Salomon Kalou, but David Luiz's free-kick hits the wall. From the left, Fernando Torres cuts past his marker and curls a lovely cross behind the Benfica defence that Kalou meets - but heads over the bar. That wasn't really close to testing Artur and it was a very good chance.
Pablo Aimar advances into space through the centre and drops a pass back to Bruno Cesar, who is arriving from the right. He rips a shot from distance that Petr Cech gets his body behind to save.
Positive start to this half from Benfica - Chelsea need to get the ball down and regroup a little. It is vital that they keep individual errors out of their game - Oscar Cardozo has just shown himself very capable of taking advantage of them.
Big shout for handball in the Chelsea penalty area - from Maxi Pereira's long throw, Raul Meireles clears poorly and straight to Oscar Cardozo. The Paraguayan drills a left-footed shot towards goal that is blocked by what looked like David Luiz's arm. Luiz kept his hands down and did not have much time to react to Cardozo's bullet of a shot, and he gets away with it. It was goal-bound.
We're back underway in Portugal.
Raul Meireles, a Porto player before he joined Chelsea, has been on the end of a tasty reception at the Estadio da Luz. He'll need to make sure he keeps composed in this second half - a moment of stupidity from anyone might be the only way Chelsea take a particularly negative result from this match.
It is difficult, anyway, to see many goals from this match at this rate and that was Chelsea's task tonight - keep the tie alive, and, if possible, grab an away goal.
Good half for Chelsea, I think - they looked solid defensively and protected Petr Cech well - the goalkeeper has not really been tested by Benfica yet. In attack, Ramires and Fernando Torres showed some spark and Raul Meireles tested Artur with a terrific effort.
Goal.com's Luis Mira on that Raul Meireles chance: "Benfica are struggling to find spaces in the middle of the park as Chelsea are playing with a high tempo. Meireles gave Benfica their first scare of the night but the midfielder’s effort was tipped away by Artur. Great shot from Meireles, who is curiously the only Portuguese player on the pitch right now."
45' + 1'
HALF-TIME! Nicolas Gaitan's free-kick is poor and the referee immediately blows for the break.
Good move across the edge of the Chelsea penalty area by Benfica ends in Maxi Pereira receiving the ball but his cross is blocked by Ashley Cole. The subsequent throw-in is cleared but Benfica work it back to Bruno Cesar on the right - he's tripped by Salomon Kalou, who might be lucky to stay out of the referee's book.
Juan Mata has some space that he might have run into in the Benfica half but instead he tries to loft a pass into the path of Fernando Torres. Jardel just about takes care of the pass, conceding a corner, from which John Terry is penalised for a touch too much aggression in the aerial challenge.
Salomon Kalou has the ball down the left-hand side and sends a pass back into the path of the onrushing Raul Meireles, who hammers a 30-yard shot towards goal. It's very well-saved down low by Artur. Chelsea are starting to get at Benfica a little here.
That was like watching Fernando Torres in a Liverpool shirt. After finding some space in between the Benfica defence and midfield, he lays a pass wide to Ramires. The Brazilian returns the pass and Torres shows his speed by breaking past his man, cutting back on to his left foot and attempting a curling shot - it's too high and goes over the crossbar. Great build-up play from the Spaniard.
Cross from Pablo Aimar is headed back by Maxi Pereira to Bruno Cesar but the midfielder's shot is high and wide. John Terry, meanwhile, seems to have lost his captain's armband - the referee has just informed the Chelsea bench that they need to find a new one.
Bruno Cesar escapes the attention of Ashley Cole in the centre of the Chelsea half but his left-footed shot is straight at Petr Cech.
Goal.com's Luis Mira is at the Estadio da Luz: "Ramires has been an absolute nightmare for Emerson on the left side of the field. The Brazilian left-back cannot keep up with his compatriot's pace, forcing his centre-back colleagues to come to his aid. Benfica were closest to scoring here as Oscar Cardozo latched on to a Bruno Cesar cross, but the Paraguayan's shot went wide of the goal."
Paulo Ferreira defends a couple of attempted bursts from Nicolas Gaitan well so Benfica try to find some space down the opposite wing. Maxi Pereira gets into his box and shrugs off Ashley Cole but his chipped cross is cut out by David Luiz and turned behind for a corner, which comes to nothing.
Good cross from Nicolas Gaitan from the left after some good passing involving the midfielder, Emerson and Axel Witsel, but it flies just too high for Oscar Cardozo, who sends his header well over the bar.
Yellow Card Bruno César
Bruno Cesar is booked for catching Paulo Ferreira as the right-back looked to advance into the penalty area. The resulting free-kick is headed behind and Raul Meireles' corner is cleared.
Maxi Pereira will continue to raid down the Benfica right but Salomon Kalou has worked hard to stay with him so far. Nicolas Gaitan and Axel Witsel have drifted out to the right on occasion, too, so Ashley Cole will need to be prepared for a busy evening.
Bit more joy for Benfica now, but no real chances to speak of. Axel Witsel's fierce cross from the right is headed clear and Maxi Pereira cannot quite reach a through ball down the right that would have given him a good chance to pick out a man in the penalty area.
First chance for Benfica - Bruno Cesar chips a ball beyond John Terry that Oscar Cardozo is able to latch on to. The striker is in a difficult position and tries to volley at goal on the turn but sends his effort wide.
Yellow Card Raúl Meireles
First booking goes to Raul Meireles. A nice little burst of speed from Nicolas Gaitan takes him away from the midfielder, who sticks out a leg and takes a yellow card for his troubles.
Good stuff from Ramires, spinning away from Emerson again to counter-attack. The Brazilian doesn't really have much on though and ends up losing control of the ball, with the arriving Juan Mata unable to recover possession.
First bit of penetration from Chelsea - Ramires uses his speed to break away from Emerson on the right wing, and finds Fernando Torres in the box. The Spaniard turns away from Luisao and looks to chip a cross to the back post but the Brazilian recovers to get in a block. Artur deals nervously with the resulting corner, but he does just enough to palm it clear of the box.
Some better passing from Benfica, but they're still searching for that bit of extra speed to their movement of the ball. Pablo Aimar aims another free-kick at the back post but Ramires clears, and after a decent move down the right Oscar Cardozo heads tamely at Petr Cech.
Quite an open game, this, but both defences have set up quite deep so it's going to be all about patient build-up, which Chelsea are not doing too badly so far. Fernando Torres and the two wingers supporting him are playing very high up the pitch and pressing the Benfica defence back, which has allowed the Blues to knock the ball around in some space.
Chelsea attempt a couple of forward thrusts but have not found much space in the final third just yet. Fernando Torres is running willingly as usual, but fresh off of his two goals against Birmingham City, he'll be desperate to get on the score sheet.
Pablo Aimar has a free-kick from the right after Salomon Kalou handballs, and his deep delivery is turned back into the centre by Bruno Cesar, but the ball trickles across the six-yard box and out for a goal kick.
Ramires is on the right for Chelsea, with Salomon Kalou on the left. Interesting, as Maxi Pereira, the Benfica right-back, can really pose a threat. He scored in both legs against Zenit St. Petersburg. Ramires, you would have thought, would have been the ideal man to keep a lid on his forward surges.
We're underway in Lisbon.
Ramires and David Luiz are playing against their old club, of course, and the duo exchanged pleasantries with some of their former teammates in the tunnel. The players are out and shaking hands now and we're nearly ready to go.
Not a sell out at the Estadio da Luz tonight. In fact, with daylight still fading away, it feels peculiarly unlike a Champions League tie at the moment. Maybe the famous anthem will solve that.
Not too far away from kick-off now. Benfica boast a fearsome attack, led by the Paraguay striker Oscar Cardozo. They have scored 37 times in 12 home matches in the league this season. The Eagles have also, however, conceded 13 goals in those games - more than any other side in the top six of the division.
Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, Daniel Sturridge and Michael Essien are the surprise omissions from the Chelsea team, and Paulo Ferreira is preferred to Jose Bosingwa at right-back with Branislav Ivanovic injured. Raul Meireles and John Obi Mikel will shield the defence, with Salomon Kalou starting on the right wing and Fernando Torres in the lone striker role.
Benfica: Artur; Pereira, Luisao, Jardel, Emerson; Javi Garcia, Witsel; Gaitan, Aimar, Bruno Cesar; Cardozo. Subs: Eduardo, Miguel Vitor, Oliveira, Matic, Nolito, Machado, Saviola.
Chelsea: Cech; Ferreira, Luiz, Terry, Cole; Mikel, Meireles; Kalou, Mata, Ramires; Torres. Subs: Turnbull, Bosingwa, Cahill, Essien, Lampard; Drogba, Sturridge.
Good evening. Ten unbeaten in the Champions League, with only one loss at the Estadio da Luz all season - Didier Drogba probably should be quaking in his boots, given Chelsea's below par away form in Europe's premier competition this season. Perhaps, though, that bit of swagger and arrogance, an ever present feature of Jose Mourinho's teams, is exactly what the Blues need. They will be aiming to give themselves a solid platform to build on going in the second leg at Stamford Bridge in Portugal tonight.
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