Soccer

Benfica returns to Europa League final by drawing Juventus

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The Canadian Press
5/1/2014 5:24:50 PM
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TURIN, Italy -- Ten-man Benfica returned to the Europa League final following a 0-0 draw at tournament-favourite Juventus on Thursday, advancing on 2-1 aggregate.

Juventus created numerous chances but either couldn't find the target or was denied by Benfica goalkeeper Jan Oblak, who had a standout performance.

Even when Benfica was reduced to 10 men in the 67th minute as Argentine midfielder Enzo Perez picked up his second yellow card for a foul on Arturo Vidal, Jorge Jesus' squad maintained its composure.

"We're a squad that tries to defend to perfection, and we more than deserved to advance," Benfica defender Guilherme Siqueira said.

It's the third time Benfica has reached the final, having been runner-up in 1983 and last year, when the Portuguese side was beaten by Chelsea.

In the May 14 final back in Turin, Benfica will face Sevilla, which scored in added time of a 3-1 loss at Valencia to advance on the away goal rule.

With Diego Maradona watching from the tribune, Juventus controlled for long periods and came close to scoring the lone goal it needed.

Andrea Pirlo shot high eight minutes in and a bicycle-kick attempt from Carlos Tevez also went high in the 24th.

In the 43rd, a header from defender Leonardo Bonucci went just wide following a free kick from Pirlo, and Tevez couldn't quite reach it at the far post.

In first-half added time, Paul Pogba inspired another chance for Juventus, leading to a header from Vidal that beat Oblak, but defender Luisao cleared the danger off the line.

A downpour accompanied by hail greeted the squads at the start of the second half, and Benfica came close with a shot from Rodrigo that sailed over the bar in the 50th.

Pirlo found the target with a splendid free kick in the 62nd but Oblak made a leaping save in the top right corner.

Juventus substitute Pablo Osvaldo thought he scored in the 81st but was ruled offside.

There was a brief skirmish between the benches in the final minutes, resulting in red cards for Juventus forward Mirko Vucinic, who did not play, and Benfica forward Lazar Markovic, who had just exited and will now miss the final.

Benfica actually ended with nine men, as defender Ezequiel Garay was carried off on a stretcher following a collision, and all three substitutions were used.

The referee let the match continue for eight minutes of added time but even that wasn't enough for Juventus, which can console itself by clinching its third successive Serie A title with a win over Atalanta on Monday.

Benfica-Juventus (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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