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Champions League: Ronaldo stars in Real Madrid victory, while Chelsea stumble into the Semi Finals
After watching Barcelona move on to the Champions League semi finals a day earlier, Real Madrid punched their own ticket to the final four, with an impressive 5-2 win over a game but over matched APOEL. While over at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea were fortunate to move past Benfica with a 2-1 victory.
Edmonton - April 5, 2012 - After watching Barcelona move on to the Champions League semi finals a day earlier, Real Madrid punched their own ticket to the final four, with an impressive 5-2 win over a game but over matched APOEL. While over at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea were fortunate to move past Benfica with a 2-1 victory. This despite being outplayed for much of the match by the Portuguese side, that were forced to play the final fifty minutes with ten men. This sets the stage for a potential all Spanish final on May 19th but the two great rivals will need to take care of business, in what look to be two very intriguing semi final match ups.
Madrid were in complete control from the opening whistle and after missing some glorious chances early on, it would be their superstar who would open the scoring at the twenty-six minute mark. Left back Marcelo sent a beautiful cross towards the far post that met the foot of Cristano Ronaldo, after a perfectly timed run. The goal not only gave them an early lead but built the two game aggregate to an unreachable 4-0.
Just over ten minutes later, Brazilian midfielder Kaka would score his second goal of the quarter-finals with a gorgeous strike from twenty-five yards out that left goalkeeper Urko Pardo helpless. While the Cypriot side did their best to maintain the highly skilled Spaniards, you simply can not give players like Kaka the time and space he was given and not expect to find the ball in the back of your net.
With the game already well in hand, Madrid took their foot of the gas and the hard working Cypriot's kept coming and were rewarded with their first goal of the quarterfinal. Midfielder Gustavo Manduca was sent in on great feed from Ailton and Manduca made no mistake slipping a nicely placed shot past a stunned Iker Casillas. While it was great moment for APOEL to get on the board against their heavily favoured opponent, the goal seemed to wake the sleeping giants.
Less then ten minutes later, Ronaldo would restore the two goal lead with his second of the match, this one coming off a perfectly placed free kick. The Portuguese sniper's strike curled just inside the far post and off the finger tips of Pardo, for his eighth goal of the Championship. Five minutes later, they made it 4-1 when
substitute Callejón neatly brought down a ball inside the box and fired a quick shot past the APOEL keeper to make it a three goal advantage.
Madrid midfielder Hamit Altintop would bring down Ailton inside the penalty area, giving the visitors another opportunity to cut the lead back down to two. Argentine Esteban Andrés Solari, calmly stepped to the spot and froze Casillas with a cheeky little shot to make it 4-2.
The Spanish giants would respond one more time, as substitute striker Ángel Fabián Di María was allowed to carry the ball, untouched, right down the middle of the field and unleashed a lovely little lob up and over the frozen APOEL keeper to restore the three goal advantage. The two sides combined for five second half goals in just seventeen minutes, in what was a somewhat sloppy but entertaining half of football.
Over in London, Frank Lampard scored from the penalty spot to put the home side up early, after Benfica's Javi Garcia clumsily brought down Ashley Cole inside the box. To make matters worse, midfielder Maximiliano Pereira picked up a yellow card for chirping the referee...it was a decision that would prove rather costly.
Less then twenty minutes after Lampard opened the scoring and with the Portuguese side carrying the play, Pereira's poor touch and decision making would cost him another yellow and ultimately his spot on the field. After losing control of the ball in the middle of the pitch, his careless spikes up lunge into Chelsea's John Obi Mikel left the official little choice but to show him his second yellow and red to signal the end of his evening.
A tough break for the Portuguese, as they were in complete control and continued to carry the play in the second half, despite being down a man. In fact, an absolutely brilliant stop by Petr Cech in the opening minutes of the second half, was the only reason Chelsea still found themselves with a lead.
The visitors finally would finally catch a break to level things at one. Garcia would make up for his earlier blunder, as he headed home the equalizer past a stunned Cech with five minutes left on the clock. In a rather perplexing moment of poor defending and goalkeeping, not one single Chelsea player left his feet to defend the incoming corner, which allowed Garcia to easily knock home the ball, as if it were during a practice drill. Suddenly, Benfica had life and Chelsea were on their heels. Luckily for the English side, Raúl Meireles would put this one to bed in extra time with the visitors pushing everyone forward looking for the winner but it was not meant to be.
The first leg of the semi finals gets under way in two weeks time, when Chelsea take on the defending champs from Barcelona and Real Madrid plays a very tough Bayern Munich side. The current La Liga front runners, are hoping to reach the Champions League final for the first time in a decade and looking to bring home their record tenth title, while the boys from Camp Nou are looking to not only defend their tittle but hoist the trophy for third time in four years.
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