Juventus lost the first leg of the Europa League semi-final 2-1 to Benfica, but Carlos Tevez scored a precious away goal.
In the other Europa League semi-final, Sevilla beat their fellow Spaniards Valencia 2-0.
The Bianconeri were without Arturo Vidal in Lisbon, so started Claudio Marchisio with Mirko Vucinic partnering Carlos Tevez. Benfica lost the Europa League Final to Chelsea last season, but mathematically won the League title on Sunday, so were in the mood to celebrate. Silvio, Ljubomir Fejsa, Eduardo Salvio and star midfielder Nicolas Gaitan were unavailable.
Both sides went into this semi-final with five wins and a draw, being the only unbeaten teams still in the competition.
It took under two minutes for Benfica to break the deadlock, as a Miralem Sulejmani corner was whipped in for the totally unmarked Ezequiel Garay. He was allowed a free header that bounced off the ground right in front of Gigi Buffon, who got a hand to it, but couldn’t keep it out of the net. Leonardo Bonucci appeared to drift off his man in the box.
Clocked at 1 minute 56 seconds, it was the second fastest goal in this edition of the Europa League, beaten only by Lazio’s Keita Balde Diao against Ludogorets.
Vucinic and Tevez combined well, but were cut out by a Luisao sliding tackle that sparked a counter and Sulejmani fired wide of the near post. Tevez had a timid strike from distance smothered by ex-Roma goalkeeper Arturo, then Paul Pogba harassed Andre Gomes out of possession only to misplace the through ball that would’ve sent Tevez clear. The French midfielder also failed to make the most of a promising move when he clattered into Guilherme Siqueira and Luisao smartly intercepted his roll across for Vucinic, as Juve were pushing after their shock start.
A slide-rule pass sent Vucinic through, but the Montenegrin hesitated and had his timid shot charged down. Tevez then tried to do it all himself by bursting into the box, shrugging off two players only to be crowded out at the near post.
Andre Gomes was booked for a foul on Pogba and will be suspended for the second leg in Turin next Thursday. Benfica had another very dangerous counter on Pirlo’s free kick, but Marchisio got back for a crucial deflection. On that set play, Giorgio Chiellini received a slight elbow on the jaw from Siqueira, unseen by the officials. Lazar Markovic surged past defenders with his pace only to misplace the cross-shot.
Juve came out fighting for the second half and pinned the hosts back, but Marchisio and Vucinic touches let them down in the box. Marchisio smartly hooked a cross back into the middle for Pogba’s towering header, but Artur got back in time for a wonderful one-handed save.
Enzo Perez tried to earn a penalty, but the referee waved play on as he ran into Martin Caceres’ leg to seek contact. Moments later, Artur needed two attempts to pluck the ball off Vucinic’s head after he had sprung the offside trap.
Sebastian Giovinco replaced Vucinic and Juve had a great chance when Stephan Lichtsteiner rolled across for Marchisio to tap in from six yards, but Maxi Pereira got a crucial interception.
The pressure eventually paid off, as Kwadwo Asamoah ran on to a Marchisio pass and pulled back from the left for Tevez, who rode a sliding Luisao tackle in the box with smart footwork to then fire past Artur at the near post. It was incredibly his first goal in European competition since Manchester United 2-2 Porto in the Champions League on April 7, 2009 – just over five years ago.
Tevez tried to repeat the trick a few minutes later, but this time his touch was heavy and allowed Artur to smother.
However, just as Benfica’s confidence seemed to be hit, they restored their advantage. A Cavaleiro dummy allowed the pass to roll through for Lima to blast under the bar from just inside the penalty area. There was nothing Buffon could’ve done about that fierce strike.
It was nearly 3-1, as Brazilian Lima set up Markovic for an angled drive that skimmed the base of the far post.
At the other end, Artur used his knee to parry from point-blank range when defenders failed to cut out a cross for Marchisio. The former Roma third choice goalkeeper also beat away another Marchisio effort, but this time he was offside.
In stoppages Chiellini sprung the offside trap on a Marchisio chipped pass only to hoof the volley wide. On the counter Lima pulled back for Markovic, whose finish was charged down in the box for a corner.
Benfica 2-1 Juventus
Scorers: Garay 2 (B), Tevez 73 (J), Lima 84 (B)
Benfica: Artur; Maxi Pereira, Luisao, Garay, Siqueira; L Markovic, Perez, Andre Gomes (Cavaleiro 82); Rodrigo, Oscar Cardozo (Lima 63), Sulejmani (Almeida 60)
Juventus: Buffon; Caceres, Bonucci, Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Pogba, Pirlo, Marchisio, Asamoah; Tevez (Osvaldo 82), Vucinic (Giovinco 65)
Ref: Cakir (TUR)
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