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UEFA Champions League

  • April 4, 2012
  • • 2:45 PM
  • • Stamford Bridge, London
  • Referee: D. Skomina
  • • Attendance: 37264
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Chelsea win Aggregate 3 - 1

Chelsea 2-1 Benfica (Agg 3-1): Lampard and Meireles on target as Blues set up Champions League semifinal date with Barcelona

Chelsea managed to qualify for the semifinal of the Champions League, but not without scary moments for the Stamford Bridge faithful, as Javi Garcia scored late on

A penalty by Frank Lampard and a strike by Raul Meireles deep into injury time helped Chelsea secure a Champions League semifinal place in a 2-1 win, but not without a scare, as Javi Garcia’s late goal nearly cost the English side.

The victory over the Portuguese outfit sees the Stamford Bridge side continue on the path towards the final in Munich, but it must now overcome the large roadblock of defending champion Barcelona, which it faces next.

Roberto Di Matteo opted to make two changes from the first leg triumph in Lisbon, bringing back Branislav Ivanovic and Lampard in place of Paulo Ferreira and Raul Meireles, while Michael Essien and Didier Drogba could only find places on the Chelsea bench, with Fernando Torres retaining his place as the Blues' lone striker.

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 replacing Luisao and Jardel, who both missed the second leg through injury.

Chelsea found it 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 defense stood firm to protect both Petr Cech and its first leg lead.

The home side was 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 would show 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 as it looked to secure a semifinal berth.

John Terry came to the rescue 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 was cleared by Terry on the line.

With just over five minutes left in the half things went from bad to worse for the Portuguese outfit as its captain Maxi Pereira was shown his second yellow card of the evening for a lunge on John Obi Mikel, leaving his side left to play out the rest of the match with 10 men.  

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 it broke down the left hand side of the penalty area with Salomon Kalou, who crossed the ball in front of the face of goal, leaving Ramires with a mere tap-in from a yard out, but the Brazilian midfielder inexplicably mis-kicked the ball and directed it away from goal.

That gave Chelsea a spur to get its second of the game and it nearly achieved that feat as Torres took Emerson one way, then the other, but unfortunately for the Blues hitman, his strike was deflected by the Benfica defender out for a corner.

Benfica nearly claimed a goal back as the Chelsea defense seemed to fall asleep, allowing the ball to eventually find substitute Yannick Djalo, but his strike from just inside the area was blocked by the home defense and out for a corner.

Mata could have finished off the game as his bursting run into the box was found by Kalou, but the Spanish midfielder’s strike could only go across the face of Artur’s goal and out for a goal kick.

The game should have been finished off as Mikel crossed from the left wing into the box, but as Mata looked to smash the ball towards goal, Kalou took the ball from his feet and proceeded to have a strike of his own which ended up going by the post.

Stamford Bridge, or at least the Chelsea end went silent as a corner from the left wing found Javi Garcia free in front of goal and from two yards out he headed the ball into the back of the net to give Benfica a glimmer of hope with five minutes to play.

But Chelsea faithful's worries ended deep into injury time. With Benfica moving everyone forward, the Blues broke and substitute Raul Meireles unleashed an unstoppable strike to send the Blues into the semifinal stage of the Champions League.

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