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Zenit sign Bart Simpson

The Toe Poke 12 hours ago
Read
Apr 4, 2012

Chelsea, Real complete semis line-up

Raul Meireles scored a late winner as Chelsea booked their place in the Champions League semi-finals with a 2-1 win over ten-man Benfica at Stamford Bridge.

• Champions League Gallery Photo Gallery
• Mourinho: Chelsea won't reach final
• Relief for Lampard as Blues hold on
• Palmer: Di Matteo fails to convince
• UCL review: Tuesday's quarter-finals

Javi Garcia's late equaliser cancelled out Frank Lampard's first-half penalty to make for a nervous finish, but Meireles' late strike secured a 3-1 aggregate victory as the Blues continued their impressive run under interim manager Roberto Di Matteo.

Benfica were left with a mountain to climb after captain Maxi Pereira was sent off for a second bookable offence five minutes before half-time.

With Chelsea leading 1-0 on aggregate thanks to Salomon Kalou's goal at the Estadio da Luz, Benfica needed a victory if they were to progress. Having scored in every away game of the current Champions League campaign, the visitors started with intent.

After clearing a dangerous-looking attack from Nicolas Gaitan, the Blues defence were called upon to block two efforts from Pablo Aimar as they held off a determined start from the Portuguese side.

But with both first-choice centre-halves Jardel and captain Luisao out, Benfica were vulnerable at the back, and stand-in centre-half Garcia was guilty of conceding a penalty after a clumsy challenge on Ashley Cole.

Frank Lampard tightened Chelsea's grip on a semi-final spot, slotting the ball low to Artur's right in the 21st minute.

Needing two goals for victory, Benfica were left with a huge uphill task after Pereira was given his marching orders. Having already been booked for dissent, the Benfica captain was shown a second yellow after a lunge on John Obi Mikel.

Chelsea had a number of chances to add to their lead, Kalou and Torres squandering decent opportunities to put the game to bed. Garcia's 85th-minute header made for a nervous finish, but substitute Meireles lashed home in the second minute of added time as the Blues held on to book their place in the last four for the sixth time in nine seasons.

In the night's other quarter-final, Real Madrid cruised past APOEL Nicosia, thrashing the minnows 5-2 at the Bernabeu to secure a convicning 8-2 aggregate victory.

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged a brace, the second of which was the first free-kick he has scored this season, to take his Champions League tally up to eight for this term and his overall goal total to 49.

Kaka also helped himself to a splendid long-range strike, while Jose Maria Callejon and Angel Di Maria added further strikes, the latter's goal a beautifully-executed chip late on.

APOEL made a fist of it with a pair of away goals to take from the Bernabeu, Gustavo Manduca netting to make it 3-1 and Esteban Solari converting a penalty for 4-2 as an historic campaign for the Cypriots finally came to an end.

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