Benfica Draw Blank As Chelsea Nick Winner

By Brad Smith

Chelsea put one foot in the Champions League semi-finals, as Salomon Kalou grabbed the only goal in an entertaining affair.

In a very end-to-end match, both sides were keen not to concede the first goal in this first leg, and although Benfica pushed and created more openings, it was Chelsea who got that first and final blow in this leg.

The visitors were lucky to get away with a chance early on, as Bruno Cesar miss hit his shot wide of the post from inside the box.

 Chelsea started to get a grip in the game and the frizzy haired David Luiz came close as he smashed a shot wide of the post after 10 minutes.

Benfica continuously looked threatening on the break, and Cardozo did well to turn and shoot in the box, but his effort wasn’t troubling Petr Cech. 

It became a very end-to-end affair, both sides creating chances, but both keepers remained untroubled, that until a rasping Raul Meireles strike was turning behind well from the Benfica stopper. 

The break came and no doubt the away side would be the happier, limiting the hosts to few chances, and not letting them play the ball around as they usually would.

Seconds after the restart, Benfica had a superb chance, but David Luiz cleared fantastically off the line, and amongst protests for handball, Chelsea cleared to safety.

The home side continued to press, but Chelsea remained firm, relying on the counter-attack, and Salamon Kalou should have done better from a Torres cross, but the winger spurned the free header wide, much to the dismay of his fellow Blues.

The game continued to stretch, the hosts had a great shout for a penalty, when a cross smashed against John Terrys arm, but the assistant, barely 5 yards away, was not interested.

From the resulting goal-kick, the Benfica defence was nowhere to be seen, as Juan Mata stepped in, rounded the keeper, but could only smash the post from a very acute angle.

When Jardel then found himself with a free header from barely 6 yards out, Cech was again a match to it, sending the Benfica manager Jorge Jesus crazy on the touchline.

The home fans were calling for everything and anything, including a bizarre shout for a backpass after Terry had intercepted a cross. 

With the game seemingly heading for a draw, the visitors got the breakthrough. A fantastic run from Torres down the wing, saw him leave the Benfica left-back for dead, and deftly chip the ball right onto Kalous outstretched leg, sending the ball into the back of the net, and the away contingent crazy.

Predictably, the home side then pushed forward looking for the equaliser, and Nolito fired over from inside the box, but they were taking a huge risk, and would leave themselves very vulnerable to any Chelsea breakaway. 

Bizarrely, just 3 minutes from the end, the Benfica goalkeeping coach was sent off, for something that had happened off the pitch, presumably saying something out of line to an official. 

Benfica then threw men forward in a bid to equalise, but it was defender Ashley Cole that nearly tied the game up, as a cross flew off his boot, but just wide of Cechs post.

The Londoners held out well for a famous victory, and put themselves big favourites to progress to the semi-finals, something which would’ve been unthinkable just 4 weeks ago.

The second leg will take place at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday 4th April.