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Ten-man Benfica resist dominant Juve to secure final spot

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01 May 2014 21:32:15

Ten-man Benfica resist dominant Juve to secure final spot

Ten-man Benfica resisted a Juventus onslaught in a scoreless draw in Turin to qualify for their second successive Europa League final after a 2-1 aggregate win on Thursday.

With a home final on the horizon Juventus had made winning the Europa League a priority after crashing out of the Champions League earlier this season.

But despite a dominant display at Juventus Stadium, where midfielder Enzo Perez saw red for the visitors with 20 minutes remaining, Juve ultimately failed to find the goal that would have secured their place in the May 14 final.

Juve suffered an early scare when Rodrigo's shot at the far post was blocked by Stephan Lichsteiner following a corner in the first minute.

From then on the hosts gradually took control but went in for half time lamenting a series of missed chances that fell to Paul Pogba, Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal, who saw two headers at the back post come to nothing.

Benfica seemed intent on soaking up the pressure to strike on the counter and the tactic worked wonders as the Portuguese champions' defence held firm throughout.

From a corner Carlos Tevez was left virtually unmarked to send a volley from close range just over Jan Oblak's crossbar.

Just after the half hour Vidal collected to the right of the area to set up Pirlo, whose shot went wide. The Chilean then teed up Fernando Llorente, whose bundled shot met traffic.

Defender Leonardo Bonucci had fans out their seats when he rose at Oblak's near post to send Pirlo's free kick across the face of goal with a glancing header, Tevez just missing contact with his outstretched boot.

Benfica had skipper Luisao to thank moments later when he headed Vidal's bouncing header to safety after Asamoah had been set up nicely by Pogba's cheeky dink through two defenders.

The players emerged to a deluge of rain for the second half but it did little to dim Benfica's resolve.

Benfica created two half-chances in quick succession, Rodrigo notably forcing Buffon to rush out at his feet after being put through on the right.

A Pirlo free kick from 30 metres looked to be creeping into the top corner until Oblak reacted quickly.

Minutes later Juve were given what should have been a boost when Perez earned his second caution of the night for hauling down Vidal, but for the remaining 20 minutes the Bianconeri laboured to find an opening.

Tevez was sent through by Asamoah but after dinking past one defender his shot from 20 metres was collected easily by Oblak.

Sensing the danger, Juve coach Antonio Conte reshuffled, replacing Bonucci with striker Sebastian Giovinco on 73 minutes but with 10 minutes the hosts had made little progress.

Conte replaced Llorente with Pablo Daniel Osvaldo and moments later the hosts spurned another opening when Lichsteiner failed to control a piercing cross from the left flank as he ghosted into space to the right of goal.

Osvaldo had the ball in the net on 81 minutes when he volleyed Pogba's cut-back into a virtually emtpy net but it was ruled offside.

Benfica dug in for the remainder, and a touchline scuffle between Juve substitute Mirko Vucinic and Lazar Markovic prompted referee Mark Clattenburg to issue both with red cards.


AFP

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