Chelsea managed to qualify for the last four of the Champions League, but there were a few scary moments for the Stamford Bridge faithful as Javi Garcia scored late onA penalty by Frank Lampard and a strike by Raul Meireles deep into injury-time helped Chelsea secure a Champions League semi-final place. But their evening was not without a scare after Javi Garcia’s late goal nearly cost the English side against Benfica.
The victory over the Portuguese outfit sees Chelsea continue on the path towards the final in Munich, but they must first overcome the large roadblock of defending champions Barcelona.
|JOHN TERRY | PLAYER RATING
Cleared off the line from Cardozo in the 29th minute and led the defence with complete certainty before being withdrawn shortly before the hour mark.
His opposite number Jorge Jesus decided to give starts to former Stamford Bridge fringe-player Nemanja Matic and former Spanish international full back Joan Capdevila, who replaced injured duo Luisao and Jardel.
Chelsea found themselves on the back foot early on in the game as Benfica looked to level the tie early on, with Nicolas Gaitan posing the threat down the left wing, but the Blues defence stood firm to protect both Petr Cech and their first leg lead.
The home side were given a golden opportunity to take the lead as Ashley Cole broke into the box and was cruelly barged down by Javi Garcia, leaving the referee with no option but to point to the spot. Damir Skomina showed a yellow card to Benfica skipper Maxi Pereira, which would cost the full back later on.
That allowed Lampard to drive the ball under the outstretched arms of Artur and into the back of the net to give Di Matteo’s side a comfortable two-goal lead on aggregate.
Midway through the first half, David Luiz attempted one trick too many and allowed Gaitan to race forward, but the Argentinian midfielder’s cross was blocked by John Terry.
The Chelsea skipper came to the rescue again a minute later after a good move from a free kick found Axel Witsel at the back post and he knocked it down for Oscar Cardozo, who was free on the penalty spot, but his drive towards goal was cleared by Terry on the line.
||Chelsea are now 8/1 with William Hill to win the Champions League this season.
The visitors came out with a purpose for the second half and were nearly rewarded straight away as a slick passing move saw the ball arrive at the feet of Cardozo, but his strike was superbly tipped round the post by Chelsea stopper Cech.
Di Matteo’s side should have wrapped up the game as they broke down the left-hand side of the penalty area, with Salomon Kalou leaving Ramires with a mere tap-in from a yard out but the Brazilian midfielder somehow failed to convert.
The English side continued to search out the goal that would ultimately kill the game off as a contest, with both Juan Mata and Torres having strikes on goal within seconds of each other, but neither could find a way past Artur.
Benfica nearly claimed a goal back as the Chelsea defence seemed to fall asleep, allowing the ball to eventually find substitute Yannick Djalo, but his striker from just inside the area was blocked by the home defence and went out for a corner.
Mata could have finished off the game Kalou picked out his bursting run into the box, but the Spanish midfielder’s strike could only go across the face of Artur’s goal and out for a goal kick.
After so many missed chances, the Stamford Bridge faithful must have feared the worst when a corner from the left wing in the 85th minute found Javi Garcia free in front of goal and he headed the ball into the back of the net to give Benfica a glimmer of hope.
But with Benfica moving everyone forward, the Blues broke and substitute Raul Meireles unleashed an unstoppable strike to send Chelsea into the semi-final stage of the Champions League.