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Chelsea 2-1 Benfica - Blues set-up Barcelona clash despite stilted performance

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By Bryan Waters

Wednesday 04 April 2012

Roberto di Matteo continued his unbeaten streak as Chelsea interim manager with a 2-1 win against Portuguese side Benfica at Stamford Bridge. Frank Lampard's early goal, followed by a late Raul Meireles strike, pits the Blues in a semi-final fixture with Barcelona.

Lampard, along with defender Branislav Ivanovic, was brought back into the starting line-up as Chelsea looked to strengthen their 1-0 lead from the first leg. The 33 year old stroked home from the penalty spot after 21 minutes following Benfica defender Javi Garcia's foul on Ashley Cole. The goal came completely against the run of play as the Portuguese side dominated the early going and Oscar Cardozo had his shot cleared off the line.

Benfica's task was made much more difficult when their captain Maxi Pereira was dismissed for two silly yellow cards late in the first half. The second half was dominated by the Premier League side with the best chance falling to midfielder Ramires. Salomon Kalou's cross fell to the 24 year old's feet and somehow, the Brazilian international missed from a yard out. Kalou himself had good chances, but couldn't find a way past Benfica goalkeeper Artur.

Garcia's close-range header late in the second half set up a nervy finish at Stamford Bridge as ten-men Benfica surged forward in search of a winner. As Benfica pushed forward, Meireles won the ball from Pablo Aimar and progressed towards goal, smashing a thunderous shot past Artur into the top corner. Chelsea held on to put them into the semi-final and their dream of reaching the Champions League final in Munich is firmly alive.

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