NEWS
Thursday May 1 2014
EL: Benfica ruin Juve dream

Juventus won’t play the Europa League Final, as they dominated nine-man Benfica without finding the net.

The Final at the Juventus Stadium will be Benfica-Sevilla, as the Spaniards lost 3-1 in Valencia to go through on away goals.

The Bianconeri had to overturn a 2-1 first leg deficit if they were to play the Europa League Final on home turf. Arturo Vidal started despite a knee problem, but Martin Caceres came in for Andrea Barzagli. The Eagles missed Silvio and Lujbomir Fejsa with Eduardo Salvio only fit for the bench and Andre Gomes suspended. Ex-Roma goalkeeper Artur was dropped in favour of Jan Oblak.

Diego Armando Maradona was in the stands as a personal guest of Carlos Tevez, even though his representative claimed he would be supporting Benfica.

Benfica scored at the third minute in Lisbon and almost netted even earlier in Turin, as a long throw-in was flicked on for Ezequiel Rodrigo, whose shot was charged down from point-blank range by Stephan Lichtsteiner.

Leonardo Bonucci, on his 27th birthday, stood his ground for a great block on Rodrigo and Maxi Pereira did the same to stop Paul Pogba pulling the trigger moments later.

Fernando Llorente knocked down a Kwadwo Asamoah cross for Andrea Pirlo’s screamer, which was fingertipped over the bar. Vidal volleyed a Pirlo assist on to the roof of the net in an audacious finish.

An even more spectacular Tevez volley was just over from 12 yards, while Lichtsteiner drilled straight at Oblak when he should’ve passed on a counter.

Llorente didn’t get enough power on a shot from just inside the box, seeing it charged down, and as the move continued Vidal’s cushioned header skimmed the back post and Vidal.

Ruben Amorim performed a decisive tackle on Vidal and Pirlo blasted wide from distance. Pirlo curled in a free kick from just in front of the corner flag, but Bonucci’s glancing header skimmed the back post with Tevez sliding in.

A Tevez slide-rule pass sent Lichtsteiner through, but Oblak was smart to anticipate and smother at his feet.

In first half stoppages Juve thought they had scored, as Asamoah crossed for a Vidal diving header into the ground, but Luisao performed a decisive goalline clearance, turning it out from under the bar.

The second period kicked off under heavy rain and even hail. Juve risked going 3-1 down on aggregate after 50 minutes, as a poor clearance fell to Rodrigo and he blasted just over from 12 yards.

Gigi Buffon was furious when he smothered at Rodrigo’s feet and the striker followed through, earning a yellow card.

Pirlo went incredibly close on the hour mark, as his free kick rose and dipped viciously towards the near top corner, Oblak flapping it away. Llorente’s header was charged down, perhaps by a Lazar Markovic arm, and as the move continued Garay desperately cleared from Tevez.

Benfica went down to 10 men on 67 minutes, as Enzo Perez received a second yellow card for bringing down Vidal.

Tevez aimed a weak effort straight at Oblak, so Antonio Conte threw on Sebastian Giovinco for Bonucci, then Daniel Osvaldo and Claudio Marchisio too.

Lichtsteiner had the chance to win it when he sprung the offside trap to get on the end of a Pirlo chipped pass, but his first touch was awful.

Osvaldo had the ball in the net, but play was halted for Pogba’s offside position as he acrobatically volleyed a Marchisio cross back into the middle.

Conte furiously accused Markovic of time-wasting, as he wanted a stretcher before being replaced by Sulejmani. After another bout of gamesmanship, a brawl broke out on the touchline between Mirko Vucinic and Markovic, who were both sent off from the bench and will therefore be suspended.

There was a significant period of stoppages when Pogba landed on Garay’s face with studs at the end of an overhead kick, leaving him bloodied and needing a stretcher, so Benfica went down to nine men.

English referee Mark Clattenburg awarded six minutes of stoppages and Tevez blasted straight at Oblak and a Salvio handling offence gave Pirlo a last-gasp free kick. That deflected out for a corner, from which Buffon came up, but Caceres saw his header saved by some fantastic Oblak reflexes.

Juventus 0-0 Benfica (1-2 agg)

Juventus: Buffon; Caceres, Bonucci (Giovinco 73), Chiellini; Lichtsteiner, Vidal (Marchisio 79), Pirlo, Pogba, Asamoah; Tevez, Llorente (Osvaldo 79)

Benfica: Oblak; Maxi Pereira, Luisao, Garay, Siqueira; Ruben Amorim, Perez; L Markovic (Sulejmani 85), Rodrigo (Almeida 68), Gaitan (Salvio 76); Lima

Ref: Clattenburg (ENG)

Sent off: Perez 67 (B), Vucinic 89 (J, from the bench), Markovic 89 (J, from the bench)

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