Benfica put up a brave performance at Stamford Bridge and almost shocked the Blues. However, Roberto di Matteo’s men looked mentally too aware of the situation’s delicacy to entertain complacency. Chelsea were not at their best in front of goal but neither were the Eagles. In the end, small details decided the outcome of the match.
In the first period, the London-based contenders were awarded a penalty for a push on defender Ashley Cole. Lampard did not miss from 12 yards and Chelsea went 2-0 up on aggregate. In spite of this setback, Benfica kept pressing forward but striker Cardozo lacked efficiency in front of goal.
The biggest blow occurred only minutes before half-time when Maxi Pereira received his marching orders for a second bookable offense. However, Benfica played as though they were not suffering from the numerical disadvantage. The encounter remained close enough with the visitors coming on top in terms of possession time percentage.
When Javi Garcia equalized in the 85th minute through a header from a corner, the final moments of the game were sure to be full of thrill. The Eagles of Benfica needed one more goal to stun Chelsea at Stamford Bridge but a set piece mistake in the 90th minute saw Chelsea break away.
Former FC Porto midfielder Raul Meireles elegantly fired the ball at the back of the net to light up the home crowd and seal Chelsea’s date with Champions League titleholders Barcelona.
In Spain, Real Madrid offered a real show to the Santiago Bernabeu’s spectators. Kaka scored in between Cristiano Ronaldo’s brace (which included an outstanding free-kick).
Callejon and Di Maria emphasized Madrid’s victory as Manduca and Esteban Andres Solari’s goals for APOEL meant virtually nothing. With their 8-2 aggregate victory, Real Madrid convincingly reached the semi-finals of the 2011/12 UEFA Champions League.
In Bayern Munich, Los Blancos will face a much tougher opponent. The German-based side may reduce Real Madrid’s qualification chances to a 50/50 situation.
The Champions League semi-finals line-up has two teams from Spain, one from England and one from Germany. Where will this year’s title fall?