dinsdag 27 maart 2012

Champions League

APOEL 0-3 Real Madrid
Kaka makes major impact from bench while Benzema nets twice in comfortable victory for Mourinho's men
Three second-half goals handed the Spanish giants a straightforward away win against the hard-working Cypriot champions in Nicosia on Tuesday

Benzema-Real Madrid-Real Sociedad

Real Madrid recorded a 3-0 triumph over APOEL thanks to a second-half double from Karim Benzema and a single strike from Kaka in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie at GSP Stadium.
A diving header from the Frenchman, a side-footed finish from the Brazilian and a late tap-in for the former Lyon striker banished any Cypriot hopes of a famous draw, as the Spanish side's quality eventually shone through.
With APOEL playing the biggest game in their history, it was perhaps no surprise that they came out all guns blazing in front of a partisan home support, and attempted to put Jose Mourinho's side under extreme pressure early on.
It didn't take long, though, before Madrid started to dominate possession and create opportunities.
Within the space of three minutes, Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil and Benzema all had half-chances, but it wasn't until the quarter-hour mark until they had their first real opening. A ball from Ozil played in Fabio Coentrao, but the Portuguese full-back snatched at his shot and fired wide from inside the area.
The Cypriots, having already travelled further in the competition than any side in their nation's history were coping well with the relentless wave of Madrid attacks, but they very nearly found themselves a goal down on 33 minutes.
A beautiful ball across the six-yard box from Nuri Sahin evaded APOEL keeper Dionisis Chiotis and found Benzema unmarked at the far post, but the France international somehow missed the target with the goal at his mercy.
The remainder of the half fizzled out, as APOEL failed to offer support to the increasingly isolated Ailton up front, and the nine-time European champions just couldn't find a way past the resolute Cypriot back line.
The teams reemerged for the second half, and whatever Mourinho said to his side at the break seemed to work, as Los Blancos increased their intensity and attacking impetus during the opening exchanges.
Ozil, Sahin and Sami Khedira were creating some intricate midfield triangles, but as with the first 45, Ivan Jovanovic's men were defending at their very best to block any attempts at their goal.
With an hour gone, Madrid had completed 416 passes compared to APOEL's 94, but it took until the 74th minute for the Spanish side's dominance to truly show. Kaka put in a delicious cross from the left, and found the head of Benzema, who got down low to direct the ball into the back of the net from six yards.
The tiring APOEL legs were starting to show, and seven minutes later, it was two. Marcelo this time got to the byeline, played it back, and there was Kaka to coolly pass home and really sink all Cypriot hopes.
And right on 90 minutes, Madrid took the game out of sight. A burst from midfield by Ronaldo took him to the edge of the area, he played it square to Ozil, and the German passed first time across the six-yard box for Benzema to tap in.
The Spanish giants now have a comfortable advantage heading into the second leg next Wednesday at the Santiago Bernabeu, and can concentrate on their stuttering league form, with a place in the last four all but certain.

Benfica 0-1 Chelsea
Late Kalou winner puts Di Matteo's men in control of Champions League tie
The Ivorian tapped in after Fernando Torres' hard-working assist to top off an unspectacular but determined away victory in Portugal, setting the Blues up well for the second leg

UEFA Champions League: Fernando Torres, SL Benfica v Chelsea

Chelsea grabbed an important away goal through Salomon Kalou as they defeated Benfica 1-0 to take a vital lead from the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final.

After a slow first half, the match heated up in the second period when Jardel came close with a free header before Fernando Torres' weaved into the opposition penalty area to find Kalou in space to prod home untroubled with 15 minutes to go.

The home side lined up with reported Manchester United targets Nicolas Gaitan and Javi Garcia included in midfield alongside experienced Argentine Pablo Aimar, with Oscar Cardozo leading the line.

Roberto Di Matteo, however, opted to leave veterans Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and Michael Essien on the bench, with Torres starting up front and former Benfica man David Luiz at centre-back in place of Gary Cahill, with Paulo Ferreira given his first start of 2012.

The opening stages were cautious and scrappy, the game not seeing any sign of life until the 19th minute when Cardozo moved ahead of John Terry to take control of an overhead pass from Bruno Cesar, the tall Paraguayan attempting to volley it in but unable to find sufficient space and thusly shot wide.

Cardozo remained the main target of Benfica’s attacks, first heading high from an awkward position before forcing Luiz to execute a difficult, but stylish, juggle of an attempted cross before he could clear the danger.

Ex-Porto man Raul Meireles, who was booed throughout, nearly capitalised with a long-range effort after Kalou teed him up.
The Ivorian advanced down the left before pulling it back into the Portuguese’s path, and the midfielder drew a fine low stop from Artur with his driven effort.

Half-time then arrived with neither side finding a breakthrough.

The second period began with howls for handball. Benfica were forward in numbers for a long throw and Cardozo picked the ball up just outside the area. The Paraguayan unleashed a rasping left-footed shot bound for goal but Luiz reacted on the line to block, to the fury of the home fans who felt that he had handled.

Chelsea, though, should arguably have taken the lead a moment later. Torres continued his fine build-up play, this time cutting in from the left to dink a cross in for Kalou, who had stolen a crucial inch from his marker in the area, but the Ivorian’s header ballooned ineffectively wide.

After an optimistic penalty shout from Benfica, when Maxi Pereira’s shot cannoned back off Terry’s arm following an admirable Ashley Cole block, the Blues’ clearest chance arrived when Jardel failed to anticipate a long ball forward and allowed Juan Mata to run in behind him. The Spaniard circled Artur but was unable to apply the necessary finish, hitting the post fruitlessly as the angle closed.

Axel Witsel gave Cech a scare on 65 minutes when, having scrapped past John Obi Mikel, the Belgian’s shot deflected heavily off Terry. The keeper was motionless as he watched it land on top of the net.

Benfica kept coming, with Gaitan finding space on the flanks. One such delivery was swung onto the head of the unmarked Jardel, only for a subsequent poor header to follow.

Chelsea, though, found the vital away goal on 75 minutes. Ramires fought hard on the right of midfield, supplying Torres further forward on the wing. The Spaniard did most of the work, closing in with purpose before feeding Kalou in the middle. Artur was taken out of the picture so the forward needed only to poke home from mere yards to take the lead.

The home side pushed desperately to even the score but it allowed the Blues to break, substitute Daniel Sturridge stretching play before passing to Mata on the left. The Spaniard’s resulting lob lacked accuracy.

Benfica nearly grabbed the leveller deep into stoppage time when Cole was forced to stick a leg to block a cross causing the ball to divert just wide of his own goal.

Overall the home side lacked punch and Chelsea were able to see the game through to assume control of the tie.


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