By JOHN BOSCHINI
Real Madrid and Chelsea are through to the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League after holding on to first-leg advantages with home victories.
Chelsea were able to book their date with Barcelona despite long stretches of poor play in a 2-1 win over Benfica resulting in a 3-1 win on aggregate. Frank Lampard converted a penalty that was drawn by Ashley Cole midway through the first half. The game looked to be over for the visitors when Maxi Pereira was sent off for two yellow cards, but Javi Garcia equalized five minutes from time to give Benfica hope.
Raul Meireles struck with a blast on the counterattack in stoppage time to secure Chelsea's victory.
Real Madrid unceremoniously ended the Cinderella run of APOEL Nicosia with a 5-2 victory at the Bernabeu to advance on an 8-2 aggregate score. Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice, while Kaka, Jose Maria Callejon and Angel Di Maria added goals of their own.
Gustavo Manduca scored, and Esteban Solari slotted home a penalty to salvage some pride for the Cypriot champions, but it is Real Madrid moving on to face Bayern Munich in the semifinals.
Here is a look back at both results from today's quarterfinals:
CHELSEA 2, BENFICA 1 (Chelsea advances on 3-1 aggregate)
Benfica were on the front foot in the early stages of their second leg against Chelsea, but they soon found themselves down 1-0 when Cole was taken down inside the box by Garcia. Lampard stepped up and fired Chelsea into a 2-0 aggregate lead in the 21st minute. Benfica's problems got a lot worse when fill-in captain Pereira was sent off for a studs-up lunge on John Obi Mikel, resulting in a second yellow card.
Despite the man advantage, Chelsea struggled to impose themselves the rest of the game. The home side's best chance came when Juan Mata's stinging shot from 15 yards out was saved by Artur Moraes. Benfica then took control of the game and were level on the night when Garcia was left unmarked in the 6-yard box and headed a corner past a statuesque Petr Cech in the 85th minute. Another goal for Benfica would have put them into the semifinals on away goals, but Meireles' stunning strike from 25 yards out gave Chelsea the necessary insurance to keep their UCL dream alive.
REAL MADRID 5, APOEL NICOSIA 2 (Real Madrid advances on 8-2 aggregate)
Real Madrid never really needed to get out of second gear as APOEL never threatened to overcome a three-goal deficit that the Spanish side carried from the first leg. Ronaldo scored in the 26th minute from very close range and Kaka doubled the advantage with a strike from long distance 10 minutes later to put the tie beyond all doubt.
The score stayed at 2-0 until the 67th minute when Mancuda scored from 12 yards out. Madrid added another two goals in quick succession when Ronaldo converted a stunning free kick from the left-side of the box and Callejon slotted the ball home from close range in the 80th minute. Hamit Altintop conceded Solari's penalty in the 81st minute, but Di Maria completed the rout just two minutes later.
What did you think of today's games? Does Chelsea have a shot against Barcelona? Should Benfica have won at Stamford Bridge? Can anyone stop Real Madrid? Are you sad to see APOEL's run come to an end?
Share your thoughts below.
Real vs Bayern is a great match up. I can’t decide who’s favorite Bayern or Real. Both sides can give up goals but Jose can park it when he wants to. Jose should tell his defenders, anyone who plays to Robben’s right boot will be shot at halftime. I give Madrid a slight edge because of the Special One.