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Nerve-racking for Chelsea, easy for Real

Chelsea's Ramires (right) is challenged by Benfica's Gaitan during their Champions League quarter-final at Stamford Bridge in London April 4, 2012. — Reuters picChelsea's Ramires (right) is challenged by Benfica's Gaitan during their Champions League quarter-final at Stamford Bridge in London April 4, 2012. — Reuters picLONDON, April 5 — Real Madrid cruised into the Champions League semi-finals with a 5-2 win over APOEL Nicosia yesterday while Chelsea squeezed past gallant 10-man Benfica 2-1 to set up a re-match against holders Barcelona.

Chelsea’s 3-1 aggregate win, after a nerve-racking finale, means they will repeat their acrimonious semi-final of three seasons ago when the Catalans won on away goals.

Leading 1-0 from the first leg in Lisbon, Chelsea reached halftime in a dominant position after Frank Lampard scored a 21st-minute penalty and Benfica skipper Maxi Pereira was sent off for a second yellow card five minutes before the break.

However, twice European champions Benfica refused to lie down and grabbed a deserved equaliser with a Javi Garcia header with five minutes to go.

As the Portuguese pressed for a tie-winning goal, they were caught on the break as former Porto player Raul Meireles struck the winner in stoppage time to send Chelsea to the semi-finals for the sixth time in the last nine seasons.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice as nine-times champions Real ended APOEL’s dream run with an 8-2 aggregate win to set up a semi-final against Bayern Munich.

Ronaldo and Kaka scored before the break, Gustavo Manduca pulled one back in the 67th minute but Ronaldo with a freekick and a Jose Callejon goal made it 4-1.

Esteban Solari netted a penalty for the visitors but Angel Di Maria immediately lobbed a fifth for Real against the first Cypriot team to reach the quarter-finals of any European competition. — Reuters

 

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