Juventus bow out to Benfica in Europa League, Sevilla through to final | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 01.05.2014
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Juventus bow out to Benfica in Europa League, Sevilla through to final

Benfica have booked a place in the Europa League final, fending off Juventus' efforts to take back the tie with an away goal. And while Valencia looked to have pulled off a dazzling comeback, Sevilla had other ideas.

In Turin, a 1-0 win would have been enough to see Juventus through to the final - the Italians having at least scored an away goal in the sides' 2-1 in Portugal.

"The Old Lady" of Italian football can remember better times; although strong domestically, the side last won a European title back in 1996.

At the start of the match, it was Benfica who came roaring out of the blocks, with a close-range Rodrigo effort blocked by Stephan Lichtsteiner.

Before long, though, Juventus established a grip on the game, full-backs Lichtsteiner and Kwadwo Asamoah pushing hard down their flanks.

Twice, ahead of the break, Juventus did go close. Leonardo Bonucci headed over the goal from a free kick and Arturo Vidal nodded in a cross from Asamoah, only for it to be headed over from off the line.

Elusive goal, disallowed

Juventus kept up the pressure in the second half although, as heavy rain began, there were some brighter attacking patches for Benfica. Juventus received a fillip in the 67th minute, when Enzo Perez was sent off for a foul on Arturo Vidal.

Benfica player Ezequiel Garay (2R) fights for the ball with Artur Moraes (R) and Giorgio Chiellini (C) of Juventus during the UEFA Europa League semi final first leg soccer match Benfica vs Juventus held at Luz Stadium, Lisbon, Portugal, 24 April 2014. EPA/JOSE SENA GOULAO

Benfica, as it turned out, had done enough work in the first leg at the Stadium of Light

When Juventus substitute Pablo Daniel Osvaldo appeared to have scored on 81 minutes, with a volley from a Paul Pogba cutback, the Italians appeared to have finally done it. The goal, however, was ruled to be offside.

If anything, it underlined a greater need for urgency on the part of Juventus, but that vital breakthrough was all-too elusive. Instead of a turnaround in the tie, the final piece of drama was to be the issuing of red cards to Juventus substitute Mirko Vucinic and Benfica's Lazar Markovic. With the game goalless, Benfica went through thanks to their 2-1 victory in Lisbon.

"We managed the advantage we had from the first leg really well and we deserve to be in the final because we were better than Juventus," said Benfica coach Jorge Jesus.

Valencia's comeback kids?

By far the more dramatic match of the night was at Valencia, the hosts having already made a dazzling European comeback this season, against Basel. In the Mestalla Stadium, the home side set about reversing the 2-0 away-leg defeat to Sevilla with efficiency.

They took the lead on 14 minutes, when Eduardo Vargas tapped the ball forward for Sofiane Feghouli, who dinked inside past Federico Fazio and blasted the ball goalwards with his right foot. A slight deflection from Fazio ensured that Portuguese keeper Beto was beaten.

The tie was back on for Valencia and, with the home fans chanting "Yes we can," the players set about proving them right.

They made a contribution towards that on 26 minutes, when the Brazilian Jonas nodded in a header from Eduardo Vargas' cross. The ball bounced down off the crossbar and hit Portuguese keeper Beto's back to roll in as an own goal.

Valencia CF's Brazilian striker Jonas Oliveira (2L) tries to score against Sevilla FC during the UEFA Europa League semi final second leg match played at Mestalla stadium in Valencia, eastern of Spain on 01 May 2014. EPA/KAI FOERSTERLING

Sevilla looked to be on the ropes, but hit back with a sucker punch

With the scores level on aggregate, the alarm bells suddenly rang with Sevilla, who now found their way back into the game. A back heel from Carlos Bacca found his teammate Jose Antonio Reyes sliding in to force a save from Valencia's Diego Alvez.

Tie takes a final twist

The second half saw the tie more evenly poised, but Valencia still appeared to be the side less willing to wait for extra time. That had looked a real possibility until the 69th minute, when - after a corner - Jeremy Mathieu smashed home an assist from Ricardo Costa.

Sevilla appeared to be floundering and, at 3-0 on the night, the stage looked set for a stunning 3-0 comeback for Valencia.

If that was in the script, nobody told Sevilla's Stéphane Mbia - on loan from Queen's Park Rangers - who powered in a header on 90 minutes to make it 3-3 on aggregate, Sevilla progressing on away goals. "I think it is the happiest moment of my life," said Mbia.

The final is to be played on May 14 at - of all places - Turin's Juventus Stadium.

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