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Benfica beats Fenerbahce to advance to Europa final

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The Canadian Press
5/2/2013 5:35:04 PM
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LISBON, Portugal -- Benfica advanced to the Europa League final after Oscar Cardozo scored twice Thursday in a 3-1 win against Fenerbahce to overturn a 1-0 deficit from the first leg.

The Portuguese club will play on May 15 against Chelsea, which advanced in the other semifinal by beating Basel 3-1 to go through 5-2 on aggregate.

Benfica was a back-to-back European champion in the 1960s, but the final in Amsterdam will be its first continental title game in 23 years.

Benfica is closing in on three trophies this season. The team remains unbeaten in the Portuguese championship in which it holds a four-point lead with three rounds to play, and will play in the Portuguese Cup final.

Benfica needed just nine minutes to level the aggregate score in Lisbon when Nicolas Gaitan poked in Lima's cross, cancelling out Egemen Korkmaz's goal in Istanbul.

Dirk Kuyt's 23rd-minute penalty after Ezequiel Garay's handball gave Fenerbahce a precious away goal and would have put the Turkish club into its first European final.

But Oscar made it 2-1 with a low left-footed drive from the edge of the area in the 35th, and the Paraguayan netted again in the 66th.

"We knew after Istanbul that we were a better team than them overall," Benfica coach Jorge Jesus said. "They didn't create many problems for us."

Benfica was in commanding form as it fought to make up for the Istanbul loss, and Fenerhabce's defence kept coming apart under pressure from Cardozo and Lima. Benfica had almost 70 per cent of possession during the 90 minutes.

Cardozo looked likely to extend Benfica's lead as the Paraguayan striker twice in 10 minutes tested goalkeeper Volkan Demirel.

Gaitan's strike, after charging into the area to meet Lima's cross, compelled Fenerbahce to start taking risks following a cautious start.

Though the visitors created few chances, Kuyt's probing down the right paid off when the ball ricocheted off central defender Garay's arm and the referee awarded Fenerbahce a penalty.

Cardozo's perseverance produced results when he wrong-footed three defenders to put the ball past Demirel.

Cardozo kept up the threat in the second half, curling a shot just past the post in the 50th, as the home team pushed forward and the visitors looked ragged.

Benfica celebrates (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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