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Benfica and Sevilla take advantage in semi-finals

ESPN staff
April 24, 2014 « Van Gerwen and Van Barneveld secure play-off places | Test Wayin World Cup »
Lima lashed home late on to give Benfica the edge © Getty Images
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Benfica substitute Lima struck late to give the newly-crowned Portuguese champions a 2-1 win over Juventus in the Europa League on Thursday.

In the first leg of the semi-final tie in Lisbon, Ezequiel Garay put the hosts ahead in the third minute only for Juventus striker Carlos Tevez to end his long European goal drought in the 73rd minute.

Lima then ensured that Benfica will take an advantage for the return leg in Italy next week by scoring six minutes from time.

Benfica, last season's runners-up in the competition, had the better start and were rewarded early on when Garay's powerful, downward header from Miralem Sulejmani's corner went into the back of the net.

Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon did get a hand on Garay's effort but he could not keep the ball out. Benfica goalkeeper Artur was first called into action in the 14th minute when he kept out Tevez's hard drive from 30 yards.

Juve's Stephan Lichtsteiner then nodded Claudio Marchisio's cross inches wide of the far post but he had been flagged offside.

In the 34th minute, Benfica midfielder Andre Gomes was shown a yellow card for a late challenge on Paul Pogba, meaning he will miss next week's encounter in Italy.

Juve struggled to put a good move together and wasted two consecutive corner kicks before half-time.

The Serie A leaders looked more dangerous after the break and almost pulled level in the 55th minute when Pogba's header from Claudio Marchisio's cross forced Artur to fully stretch to clear the ball.

Artur was called again to make a save to deny Mirko Vucinic's goal-bound header.

Juve's efforts were finally rewarded in the 73rd minute. Kwadwo Asamoah's cross found Tevez in the box and the Argentinian striker got past two defenders before hitting a powerful 12-yard shot past Artur. The goal was Tevez's first European strike since April 2009.

Just when Juve looked to be in control, Benfica went ahead. Enzo Perez spotted an unmarked Lima at the edge of the area and the forward fired a right-footed shot past Buffon.

Juve could not get past Benfica's defensive wall in the late stages of the game and will head to Turin needing to overturn the result in a week's time at the Juventus stadium, the venue for this year's final.

In the night's other semi-final, Sevilla will take a solid lead to the Mestalla next week after toppling Primera Division rivals Valencia 2-0.

Two goals in three first-half minutes, from Stephane Mbia and Carlos Bacca, settled matters at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, and gave Unai Emery the upper hand against his former team.

Sevilla, UEFA Cup winners in 2006 and 2007, headed into the game as favourites on league form, having won seven of their last eight matches in La Liga, but had yet to beat Los Che this term.

Both sides made a lively enough start to the all-Spanish affair, as they battled for the right to meet Benfica or Juventus in Turin next month.

Beto was the first goalkeeper to be called into action, the Sevilla stopper brilliantly parrying a 25-yard Juan Bernat blast in the 17th minute, but it was the hosts who looked the more dangerous going forward in the early stages.

Federico Fazio and Daniel Carrico headed narrowly wide from Ivan Rakitic corners, before the opener arrived on 32 minutes. Rakitic's free-kick from the left was met by Mbia, who lashed into the top-right corner from close range.

And the home fans had hardly finished celebrating when Bacca doubled their advantage, latching onto Machin Vitolo's pass and despatching a low shot past Vicente Guaita.

The Valencia goalkeeper pulled off a fantastic save shortly before half-time to keep his side only two goals down at the interval, beating away a Fazio header from another Rakitic set-piece.

Guaita needed to remain alert after the interval as Sevilla continued to press for a third goal, with Rakitic pulling the strings. The Croatia midfielder first found the head of an unmarked Fazio with a free-kick and then fed a through-ball into the path of Bacca, but both chances were snuffed out by the visiting keeper.

Juan Antonio Pizzi's side should have halved the deficit in the 66th minute when Carrico's poor clearance fell for Eduardo Vargas just inside the box, but his curling attempt drifted inches wide with Beto beaten.

The visitors were looking determined to get at least an away goal to show for their evening's work and finished the match on the front foot, but were unable to find a way past Beto.

Substitute Jonas' close-range effort was parried by the Portuguese and then the impressive Vargas headed against the bar.

Vicente Iborra was introduced from the Sevilla bench just before the end and could have added to Valencia's woes by scoring with his first touch after shaking off his marker in stoppage time, but drilled his shot into the ground and over the bar.

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