Chelsea had a scare but progressed to face Barcelona in the Champions League semifinals while it’ll be Real Madrid to take on Bayern Munich elsewhere.
Chelsea 2 (Lampard 21’, Raul Meireles 90’) def Benfica 1 (Javi Garcia 85’)
The Londoners look on course for the semifinals with ease, after Frank Lampard netted from the spot 20 minutes into the second leg to make it a 2-0 aggregate advantage and when Maxi Pereira was sent off late in the first-half it looked settled. However, Chelsea wasted several chances, including Ramires failing to poke home from point-blank range and Benfica gave Chelsea a real scare late on when Javi Garcia pulled one back on 85 minutes. But ex-FC Porto man Raul Meireles settled their nerves with a late strike on a counterattack.
Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo said: “It was a tough game. Winning 1-0 away leaves you in a bit of a conundrum how to approach the game. We gave them an idea they could come and win the game. We didn’t want to go too gung ho but we created enough chances in the second half. We are pleased to be in the semis.”
On facing Barcelona in the semis, he added: “Barcelona are probably one of the best teams in the world, if not the best. They have great players. They are going to be favourites but we have a lot of belief in ourselves. We have to perform at our best to beat them and we believe we can do that.”
Benfica boss Jorge Jesus said: “Even with 10 men we were always better than Chelsea. We bow out full of frustration as we feel we were much better than Chelsea in both legs; we didn’t deserve to lose. But I’m proud of this Benfica team. We don’t go through to the semifinals to face Barcelona but we are a better team than Chelsea. We played for an hour with 10 and you did not notice.”
Real Madrid 5 (Cristiano Ronaldo 26’, 75’, Kaka 37’, Jose Callejon 80’, Di Maria 84’) def APOEL Nicosia 2 (Manduca 67’, Solari 82’ pen)
The Spanish giants are into the semifinals where they’ll face Bayern Munich after cruising past Cypriot surprise APOEL 8-2 on aggregate. The second leg was more of a formality than anything, after Real’s 3-0 first-leg away win. However, some stunning goals from Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka and Angel Di Maria ensured there were plenty of thrills. APOEL, who had held out for 75 minutes in the first leg before conceding three goals late, were never in this tie in the second leg, although they kept fighting to the end much to the delight of the 4000 travelling fans.
A respectful Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho said: “We knew it would be almost impossible for APOEL to come here and beat us 4-1 to go through so it wasn’t easy to motivate the boys because everything was under control, but we did our job.”
He added: “I’m satisfied with the team’s progress in the Champions League over the past two years. When I got here the team was enduring a dark period in European competition. There were players who had not played in the quarter and semi-finals for a while, and some who never had. Now we’ve had two consecutive seasons in the semi-finals.”
APOEL coach Ivan Jovanovic said: “It was a pleasure to play here, in such a game. It is a crowning moment for all of us and the score is not so important because we should look back at the whole campaign with pride. We gained some great experience from these two games and that experience will help the club, the players and myself for the future.”