Cardozo stars as Benfica beat Fenerbahce and seal Europa final place
Oscar Cardozo struck twice as Benfica overturned a first-leg deficit to reach the Europa League final with a 3-1 victory over Fenerbahce.
Trailing 1-0 from the first leg in Turkey, the hosts got off to the perfect start at the Estadio da Luz when Nicolas Gaitan put them ahead on the night and level overall within nine minutes.
They were pegged back by a Dirk Kuyt penalty against the run of play soon after, but Cardozo's slick finish restored Benfica's lead before the break and the Paraguay striker was in the right place again midway through the second half to slam home the crucial third goal and secure a May 15 final against Chelsea in Amsterdam.
Benfica showed their attacking intent from the outset, taking a deserved early lead. The Fener defence appealed optimistically for offside against Rodrigo Lima, whose clever cross set up Gaitan for a neat dink with the outside of his left foot which nestled in the net via the post.
Jorge Jesus' side continued on the front foot, but were stunned midway through the first half when French referee Stephane Lannoy pointed to the spot for handball against Ezequiel Garay. The former Real Madrid man did not seem to know much about it as the ball flicked off his arm, but Kuyt showed no mercy and calmly despatched his penalty into the bottom-left corner.
The equaliser took the wind out of the hosts' sails and, understandably, boosted Fener. Moussa Sow, leading the line in the absence of the suspended Pierre Webo, saw a decent effort from a tight angle saved by Artur and then dragged a shot wide after springing the offside trap.
The Portuguese league leaders were beginning to cut frustrated figures, appealing in vain for two penalties in quick succession, but 10 minutes before the break they went 2-1 up. A quick free-kick found Cardozo, who worked himself some space on the edge of the area before unleashing a low left-footed drive past Volkan Demirel.
Kuyt could have grabbed a second crucial away goal soon after, but snatched at his angled shot and found only the side-netting. With all to play for after the interval, it was the hosts who continued to muster the better of the chances - albeit without overly threatening Artur's goal in the early stages.
And Cardozo put Benfica 3-1 ahead on the night in the 66th minute. Anderson Luisao's effort fell kindly at the feet of the Paraguayan, who controlled well before firing into the bottom-right corner from eight yards.
Benfica could and should have put the tie to bed soon after when Lima burst through down the left, but the Brazilian selfishly opted to shoot from a tight angle rather and was denied by Volkan Demirel.
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