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Porto, Benfica Win at Home to Open Europa League Semifinals

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April 29 (Bloomberg) -- Porto and Benfica won at home to take the first steps to an all-Portuguese final in soccer’s Europa League.

Radamel Falcao scored four times to lift his competition tally to a record-tying 15 goals as Porto beat Villarreal 5-1 last night in the first game of their two-match semifinal. Jardel and Oscar Cardozo scored in Benfica’s 2-1 win over Braga.

“I will never forget these four goals,” Colombian striker Falcao said in comments on UEFA’s website. “It’s a dream because I’ve never scored four goals in a game before.”

Villarreal and Braga will host the return matches on May 5. The final of Europe’s second-tier club competition is scheduled for May 18 in Dublin.

Porto, the bookmakers’ favorite to lift the trophy, scored all of its goals in the second half after Ruben Cani had given Spain’s Villarreal the lead just before the break at the Estadio do Dragao.

“It was a good first step towards the final,” said Porto coach Andre Villas-Boas. “Falcao is fabulous.”

Falcao tied the score with a penalty kick in the 49th minute and Fredy Guarin gave 2003 champion Porto the lead by heading in the rebound of his own shot in the 61st minute.

Falcao scored six minutes later to make it 3-1, completed his hat trick in the 75th minute by heading in a free kick and added another header in the 90th minute. His tournament-leading 15 goals put him level with the record set by Bayern Munich’s Jurgen Klinsmann in the 1995-96 season.

Cardozo’s goal in the 59th minute gave Benfica the win over Braga at the Estadio da Luz in the first all-Portuguese matchup in European competition.

Jardel put Benfica ahead with a header five minutes into the second half and Vandinho tied it for Braga three minutes later. Cardozo then sent a free kick into the top corner of the net for the winning goal.

“We deserved more, at least to end with a two-goal advantage,” said Benfica coach Jorge Jesus. “Their goal was from a set-piece situation and they didn’t create many difficulties for us.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Bob Bensch in London at bbensch@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at celser@bloomberg.net.

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