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05 Apr 2012

Chelsea will face Barcelona after reaching their sixth Champions League semi-final in nine

years with victory over Benfica at Stamford Bridge.

Frank Lampard's first-half penalty set the platform for Chelsea's successful defence of the

1-0 lead they established in Lisbon's Stadium of Light.

And though Chelsea had to survive nervous moments in the last five minutes after Javi

Garcia's header put Benfica one goal away from winning the tie, a spectacular strike from

substitute Raul Meireles in the dying seconds cut short the comeback.

Chelsea's win sets up a repeat of the controversial 2009 semi-final when only Andres

Iniesta's stoppage time strike at Stamford Bridge rescued Barcelona and prevented an all-

Premier League meeting with Manchester United in Rome.

The Blues' performance here was hardly of the calibre to strike fear into the hearts of the

holders and tournament favourites - indeed, for long spells, the fare was decidedly ordinary

- but for caretaker manager Roberto di Matteo and his players it was mission accomplished.

Their opponents created chances throughout but simply lacked the cutting edge to capitalise -

a task made even more difficult by the first-half dismissal of captain Maxi Pereira after he

received a second yellow card for a crude challenge on Jon Obi Mikel.

But while Chelsea may not have touched the heights, their rejuvenation under caretaker Di

Matteo continues as they now contemplate another semi-final to go with their FA Cup date with

Tottenham at Wembley.

It is a brutal reality, however, that they will have to display infinitely greater quality

than this to trouble Pep Guardiola's Catalan superstars as they battle for a place in next

month's final in Munich.

The visitors opened with ambition as they chased down the deficit from the first leg in

Lisbon, with the gifted Pablo Aimar prominent.

The early momentum was halted, however, by the concession of a needless penalty after 21

minutes when Garcia barged Ashley Cole to the ground. Keeper Artur touched Lampard's penalty

but it carried too much power.

Benfica needed a swift response and almost got it through the dangerous Oscar Cardozo but his

shot from the edge of the area was swept off the line by home captain John Terry.

Passages of the first half had been niggly, with referee Damir Skomina producing his yellow

card at regular intervals. And it was red for visiting captain Pereira five minutes before

the interval when, having been booked for protesting about the penalty, he received a second

yellow for an ugly lunge at Mikel.

Even then, it took a fine save from Petr Cech to prevent Benfica drawing level moments after

the restart, the Blues keeper showing great agility to claw away Cardozo's effort.

The game became increasingly stretched as Benfica's need for a goal became more urgent and

seconds after Yannick Djalo's shot was deflected narrowly off target at one end, keeper Artur

was forced to block at Kalou's feet at the other.

The visitors' threat finally brought a goal, courtesy of Garcia's glancing header in the 85th

minute, but just as the prospect of a dramatic turnaround materialised, so it promptly

disappeared. Meireles - taunted by the visiting fans for his connection to rivals Porto -

settled the tie.

He broke away as Chelsea cleared a Benfica free-kick, keeping his composure to flash a finish

past Artur to confirm another meeting with old Champions League adversaries Barcelona.

ource: bbc.co.uk

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