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Champions League: Real Madrid and Chelsea take first leg
The opening day of the Champions League quarter-final action featured the two favourites on foreign soil. Chelsea scored late to beat Benfica 1-0. While APOEL had their hands full, falling 3-0 to a heavily favoured Real Madrid side.
Edmonton - March 28, 2012 - The opening day of the Champions League quarter-final action featured the two favourites on foreign soil. Spanish giants Real Madrid were in Nicosia, taking on the surprising APOEL, while Chelsea was in Portugal paying a visit to Benfica. While neither match was a masterpiece, both visiting sides got the job done. Chelsea scored late to not only earn the victory but score a crucial away goal in their 1-0 win. APOEL had their hands full dealing with La Liga's top team, falling 3-0 to the heavily favoured Spanish side.
While the Cypriot club managed to keep the game scoreless through the opening seventy-three minutes, Real Madrid finally broke through when Frenchman Karim Benzema's diving header sailed past the out stretched arms of goalkeeper Dionisis Chiotis. Benzema had the best chance of the opening half but somehow redirected a lovely goal mouth feed over the bar, instead of into a wide open goal from inside the six yard box The talented forward would not make the same mistake twice, burying a beautiful cross from substitute Kaka.
Madrid continued to poor it on and made it 2-0, when Kaka put away a gorgeous feed from Marcelo eight minutes after Benzema opened the scoring. The Real defender made a superb run down the left flank and as he was falling to the ground, after being fouled inside the box, Marcelo sent a lovely ball back to the Brazilian, who found the back of the net.
Benzema would get his brace, as he tapped in a wonderful pass from German midfielder Mesut Özil at the ninety minute mark. The Madrid striker now has scored seven goals in this year's Champions League, trailing only Bayern Munich's Mario Gomez, who sits second with eleven and Barcelona's Lionel Messi, who leads the way with twelve goals.
Both Kaka and Marcello were brought in as substitutions at the sixty-fourth minute, a decision that saved Jose Mourinho's side the embarrassment of, possibly, coming away from the first leg without a full three points. While the outcome seemed to never be in doubt, the Cypriot's did their best to stay in a match that they were unable to guide a single shot towards Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas.
In Lisbon, the homeside and the visitors from England combined to put on a dreadful performance. Benfica had little to no jump and while Chelsea wasn't much better, they still managed to take the first leg. After an uneventful opening 45 minutes, the two sides finally started to show some signs of life late in the match.
Chelsea striker Juan Mata nearly opened the scoring after darting past Benfica goalkeeper Artur but the Spaniard was unable to beat the woodwork, as his attempt hit the post and stayed out. Moments later, Jardel Nivaldo Vieira had a glorious opportunity to put the Portuguese side ahead, with a wide open look but his header was easily turned aside by Petr Cech. While the Czech goalkeeper deserved full marks for making the timely stop, the finish was downright poor from the Benfica defender.
Thankfully, after watching seventy-four minutes of uninspired and rankly boring soccer, the game finally got its first goal. Chelsea's Fernando Torres broke free from Jardel near the sidelines, made a a great run down the right flank and sent in a cheeky little cross to a hard charging Salomon Kalo, who neatly volleyed the ball past Artur and into the net for the winner.
Day number two will feature the other two quarter-final match-ups. German powerhouse Bayern Munich will be in France to take on Marseille and in the most intriguing pairing of the quarters, AC Milan will play host to the the defending champions from Barcelona.
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