Real and Chelsea move closer to Champions League semi-final berths

Mar 28, 2012, 14:55 IST | AFP

Real Madrid and Chelsea defeated their opponents APOEL Nicosia and Benfica respectively in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-finals ties. While French striker Karim Benzema inspired Real to a 3-0 victory over APOEL, it was second-half goal from Salomon Kalou that gave Chelsea a 1-0 win against Benfica.

Real Madrid and Chelsea took giant strides towards the Champions League semi-finals on Tuesday as they both recorded away wins in their quarter-final first leg matches.

A double from French striker Karim Benzema inspired nine-time winners Real to a 3-0 victory over Cypriot surprise packages APOEL Nicosia and all but ensured a last four spot against the winners of Marseille and Bayern Munich.
A second-half goal from Salomon Kalou gave Chelsea a 1-0 win over Portuguese outfit Benfica - ironically the only side playing on Tuesday that didn't field a Portuguese player in their starting line-up - to inflict the hosts first home defeat in Europe this term.
Salomon Kalou, Fernando Torres
Chelsea forward Salomon Kalou (right) celebrates with his teammate Fernando Torres (left) after scoring against Benfica. Pic/AFP
It puts the English side in a strong position for next week's second leg and a semi-final against either holders Barcelona or AC Milan.
APOEL had worked wonders to reach this stage - unprecedented for a Cypriot club - but their limitations were painfully exposed by a Real side bursting with superstars the hosts lacked.
APOEL's tactic of holding out for a draw - they failed to muster a shot on goal - worked until well into the second-half but then Benzema redeemed himself for a terrible miss in the first-half.
The Frenchman broke the deadlock with just over a quarter of an hour remaining with a diving header from substitute Kaka's left-wing cross.
Kaka scored the second after great work down the left by fellow Brazilian Marcelo.
Benzema added a third shortly before the final whistle, tapping home after a superb pass from Mesut Ozil.
Real coach Jose Mourinho, bidding to win the trophy for a third time with a different team having won with Porto and Inter Milan, was pleased with his team's performance.
"I am happy because my team took to the task seriously and dominated the game against a team that gave us a lot of headaches," said Mourinho.
"They made life difficult for us, with their fantastic tactics and their extraordinary team spirit."
Kalou's goal in Lisbon puts Chelsea firmly on course to reach their sixth Champions League semi-final in nine seasons and gives interim coach Roberto Di Matteo an unexpected chance of collecting two pieces of silverware as they are also in the FA Cup semi-finals.
"It's terrific, you couldn't have hoped for a better result," a delighted Di Matteo said.
"I thought we looked good defensively. For 90 minutes we had to run and tackle, and I had to select a team that had the energy to compete.
"Nothing is over. There is still another 90 minutes to play. But we will have home advantage and we will try and qualify."
Goalscorer Kalou said Chelsea's united dressing room had made victory possible.
"We played as a team and when you play as a team it makes it easier to win," he said. "Any goal is important. I'm just happy to have scored."
However, Chelsea's former Benfica midfielder Ramires was circumspect about their chances of wrapping up the last four spot.
"We have to remain calm, because Benfica will undoubtedly give us a hard match in the second leg," said the 25-year-old Brazilian.
"We have to keep our feet on the ground because there are still 90 minutes to play and I know the strength of Benfica. We can't party too early."

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