Benfica vs. Chelsea  0 - 1


Drogba thrilled with away goal

28 March 2012 16:27

Didier Drogba believes Chelsea's away goal in a 1-0 win over Benfica could prove crucial in securing Champions League progression.

Salomon Kalou's 75th-minute effort at Estadio da Luz means Chelsea will hold a narrow advantage in their Champions League quarter-final going into the second leg at Stamford Bridge next Wednesday.

Kalou's Ivory Coast international colleague Drogba, an unused substitute for Tuesday's match in Portugal, hailed the outcome against the Liga Sagres side, but still feels Chelsea must be wary going into the return fixture.

"It is a great result," the 34-year-old told L'Equipe.

"The most important thing is that we have scored that goal away from home.

"But we have a lot of respect for Benfica. We will take the return leg very seriously."

If Chelsea progess to the next stage of the competition they will face either holders Barcelona or Italian side AC Milan in the semi-finals.


Kalou delighted with ´important´ away goal

28 March 2012 04:33

Salomon Kalou said Chelsea must continue to work hard in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final against Benfica.

The English Premier League side will take a 1-0 advantage into the second leg at home following their victory at the Estadio da Luz on Tuesday, in which Kalou scored the winning goal.

But the Ivorian urged his side to remain focused as the tie heads back to Stamford Bridge next month.

"It's a good result, the away goal is very important," Kalou told Sky Sports.

"It was a good game, everyone worked hard and when you do that as a team it makes it easier to win.

"Everyone worked hard today. We deserved to win the game and I wasn't worried about the late chances. We are ahead by one goal and we have to get ready for the next game now."

Kalou has found his first-team opportunities limited this season, but returned to the starting line-up due to Chelsea's busy schedule of late.

"You want to play every game but the manager makes the decisions and you have to respect that," Kalou said.

"He gave me my chance to play and prove myself on the pitch and I'm happy to play and give everything I can."

Despite only scoring one goal, Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech said it had been a perfect performance from his side in Portugal.

"We can say that it was a perfect game for us in terms of result and performance, we kept a clean sheet and we were patient all game waiting for our chances to come and in the end we scored from a very good counter attack," Cech said.

"It was a pity that Juan (Mata) didn't get a second when he went round the keeper but the angle was too tight for him to score and he hit the post.

"We can be really satisfied though because in terms of the game plan we did really well. We didn't let them play in the first half and in the second half we waited patiently and the chance came."


Champions League: Benfica 0 Chelsea 1

27 March 2012 22:54

Salomon Kalou scored an important away goal as Chelsea defeated Benfica 1-0 to take a vital lead in their Champions League quarter-final.

The first half started very slowly but things heated up after the break, Mario Jardel coming close with a free header before Fernando Torres' impressive assist from the right wing opened up space for Kalou to tap 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 David Luiz at centre-back in place of Gary Cahill, while Paulo Ferreira made a shock start, his first of 2012.

The opening stages were cautious and scrappy, the game not seeing any sign of life until, in the 19th minute, 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 shooting wide.

The game became more open, with Torres notably shooting over from distance, but 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 hit it out of play.

Torres was looking lively for the Blues and, on 38 minutes, he demonstrated some fine hold-up play outside the box before taking an ambitious shot, though knocking it high and wide.

Former Porto man Raul Meireles nearly capitalised with another 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 - but half-time 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 for naught.

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 as the angle closed too far.

Axel Witsel gave Petr Cech a scare on 65 minutes when, having scrapped past John Obi Mikel, the Belgian's shot deflected heavily off Terry. The Chelsea keeper was nowhere but watched it land on top of the net with relief.

Benfica kept coming, crossing once from a corner and being repulsed before Gaitan delivered a second ball, this time finding Jardel unmarked at the post. His header was poor, however, and Cech's good reactions were enough to keep it out.

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. With Artur taken out of the picture, the forward needed only to poke home simply to take the lead.

The home side pushed desperately to even things up but it allowed the Blues to break, substitute Daniel Sturridge stretching play before passing to Mata on the left. The Spaniard looked to lob Artur but lacked accuracy and the chance was lost.

Benfica put hearts in mouths when Cole was forced to stick his leg out wildly to block a cross in stoppage time, the ball diverting just wide of his own goal, but they lacked punch and Chelsea were able to see the game through to assume control of the tie.


Benfica aim to prove Drogba wrong

27 March 2012 08:21

Benfica manager Jorge Jesus has warned Chelsea not to underestimate his side ahead of their Champions League quarter-final clash.

A video on Chelsea's television channel showed Didier Drogba feigning fear after being told the club had drawn the Portuguese side in the last eight of the competition.

Jesus acknowledged that the forward was 'probably just joking', before adding: "Drogba only knows what he's thinking.

"Any responses we'll be giving to Drogba will be on the field and proving we are better than him.

"You have to remember that Benfica and Sporting Lisbon eliminated Manchester United and Manchester City, the two top teams in England, from Europe."

"You are going to see a strong Benfica because we are about to play a team that is very powerful. To be in the quarter finals all the teams have to have a lot of quality. Benfica will have to play a great match.

"In fact we have to play a perfect match from a defensive and from an offensive point of view. We must have an inspired night because that way we can achieve our objective in this match which is to win it which I believe we can."

Benfica are unbeaten at the Estadio da Luz in the Champions League this season and host Chelsea on Tuesday evening in the first leg of their quarter-final tie.


Di Matteo defends Chelsea stature

27 March 2012 03:14

Chelsea interim boss Roberto Di Matteo has jumped to the defence of his players after midfielder Frank Lampard claimed his side were in decline.

Lampard provided a withering assessment when asked about Chelsea's season, telling Chelsea TV: "We're not as good as we used to be."

But despite his side sitting five points behind Tottenham in fourth place and in danger of failing to qualify for the Champions League next season, Di Matteo denies his team lacks quality.

"The numbers say that, so there is no point in denying it's been a difficult season," Di Matteo said.

"But we have quality in this team and many good players. I still think this Chelsea team is a very good team.

"I am positive about the team, but my players are positive too.

"We have great belief in our abilities. That's what we're going to try and express tomorrow."

Chelsea face Benfica in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie on Tuesday and Di Matteo believes his side can secure an advantage to take back to Stamford Bridge next month.

"It's a very fine line between success and failure, this team has the ability to play a good game tomorrow night," he said.

"Benfica play with great intensity and good pressure, have some excellent players, wouldn't be in the quarter-finals if not."


Champions League preview: Benfica v Chelsea

27 March 2012 02:17

Benfica will hope to extend their unbeaten home streak when they face Chelsea in Tuesday's UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg.

The Lisbon-based team have not lost at home for 10 matches in European competitions and Benfica's coach Jorge Jesus will hope that form can help his side through to the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since 1990.

Chelsea have not won away from home in this season's Champions League.

Jesus will expect a lot of striker Oscar Cardozo, who is the only Benfica player to have reached double figures in goals so far this season.

Cardozo has scored four times in seven Champions League matches this season, including one in Benfica's 4-3 aggregate quarter-final win over Zenit St Petersburg.

Chelsea reached the quarter-finals stage with a 5-4 aggregate victory against Napoli.

Benfica goes into the game second in Portugal's Liga Sagres, one point behind FC Porto.

Jesus' team drew 0-0 with seventh-placed Olhanense on Friday.

The Benfica manager started 32-year-old midfielder Pablo Aimar on the bench against Olhanense and the Argentine should be well-rested for Tuesday's game.

Chelsea also drew 0-0 over the weekend, having been held at home by Tottenham on Saturday.

That result leaves Chelsea five points behind Spurs on the English Premier League table, in serious danger of missing out on qualifying for the Champions League again next season.

The two clubs have never played each other in a competitive match, but Chelsea will go into the game with plenty of knowledge of Benfica, thanks to Ramires and David Luiz's recent stints at the Portuguese club.

Roberto Di Matteo's men are the only English side remaining in the competition and go into Tuesday's game with all players available.

Defender Branislav Ivanovic suffered a thigh injury in Chelsea's 2-1 loss to Manchester City on Wednesday and did not play against Tottenham, but is expected to be fit against Benfica.

Primeira Liga table

# Team MP D P
1 14 +31 36
2 14 +21 36
3 14 +23 33
4 13 +13 28
5 13 +4 24

Premier League table

# Team MP D P
1 16 +37 46
2 16 +25 35
3 16 +15 32
4 16 +14 30
5 16 +10 29