Soccer

Juventus, Basel, Benfica, Porto win Europa openers

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The Canadian Press
4/3/2014 6:13:14 PM
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Juventus scored late to beat Lyon 1-0 and take a big stride toward the Europa League semifinals while Benfica and FC Basel also won to move within sight of a second straight appearance in the last four on Thursday.

Leonardo Bonucci poked home Juventus' 85th-minute winner in its quarterfinal first leg at Stade Gerland, keeping the Italian league leaders and competition favourites on course to reach the final in their own stadium on May 14.

"It's a pity," said Lyon midfielder Maxime Gonalons, whose team was hanging on in the second half, "we almost had a perfect game."

Benfica, beaten by Chelsea in last season's final, could be back in the showpiece match next month after Eduardo Salvio's 48th-minute goal sealed a 1-0 win at AZ Alkmaar.

Matias Delgado scored twice in five minutes late in the first half and Valentin Stocker added a third goal in second-half stoppage in Basel's 3-0 win over Valencia that was played in an empty stadium at St. Jakob Park.

UEFA ordered the first leg to be played without fans as punishment after Basel supporters temporarily stopped play during its 2-1 win at Salzburg two weeks for throwing fireworks on the pitch.

In the other last-eight matchup, Porto beat Sevilla 1-0 at home thanks to Eliaquim Mangala's flying header from Ricardo Quaresma's superbly delivered cross in the 31st minute.

Steven Defour and Quaresma struck efforts against the post for Porto, which finished with 10 men after midfielder Fernando was given two yellow cards in a matter of seconds in the 87th minute for firstly pulling an opponent's shirt and then kicking the ball away.

With Porto striker Jackson Martinez also missing the second leg because of suspension, two-time winner Sevilla is far from out of the home-and-away series.

All the second legs will be played next Thursday.

An ultimately successful night for Juventus was soured by the sight of Carlos Tevez leaving the pitch in the 55th minute with what appeared to be a groin strain.

The Argentina striker missed two of a handful of good chances for Juve to stay without a goal in European competition since April 2009, when he was playing for Manchester United in the Champions League.

Lyon battled gamely but was forced on the back foot in the second half, with Sebastian Giovinco and Mauricio Isla having shots saved by Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes and Mirko Vucinic blazing over for Juventus from inside the six-yard box.

Just when it seemed Lyon would survive with a draw, Bonucci capitalized on a poor clearance from Lyon defender Bakary Kone to shoot into the roof of the net from close range.

"We did not expect Lyon to defend that well," Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba said. "They surprised us in the first half. Things improved a bit in the second half, the team clicked."

Juventus is the only Italian club still involved in a European competition.

Leonardo Bonucci  (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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