Chelsea Sets Up Champions League Semi With Barca, Real Advances

Raul Meireles Celebrates His Goal
Raul Meireles scored in injury time as Chelsea beat 10-man Benfica 2-1 last night in London to complete a 3-1 victory in their two-match quarterfinal. Photographer: Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images

Chelsea beat Benfica to set up a Champions League semifinal against tournament favorite Barcelona, while Real Madrid also won at home to advance to a final four meeting with Bayern Munich.

Raul Meireles scored in injury time as Chelsea beat 10-man Benfica 2-1 last night in London to complete a 3-1 victory in their two-match quarterfinal. The win sends the Blues to the semifinals of European soccer’s elite club competition for the sixth time in nine seasons, where they’ll face a Barcelona squad seeking its fourth title in seven years.

“They’re the greatest team in the world,” Frank Lampard, who scored Chelsea’s first goal, told ITV. “Barcelona are going to be favorites because of the way they’ve been playing, but we believe in ourselves.”

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice as Real Madrid completed an 8-2 rout of APOEL Nicosia with a 5-2 victory at the Bernabeu Stadium. The record nine-time champion next meets a Bayern team trying to reach the May 19 final in its home stadium.

“Mission accomplished,” Ronaldo said on UEFA’s website. “We’re in the semifinals, where we expect the Bayern tie to be very difficult.”

Real, which last won the competition in 2002, will travel to Munich for the first match on April 17, with the second game in Spain eight days later. Chelsea will open its semifinal at home on April 18 before heading to the Camp Nou on April 24.

Lampard Strikes

After Chelsea’s Juan Mata had an early goal disallowed for offside, the Blues took the lead in the 21st minute last night when Lampard converted a penalty kick after Ashley Cole was taken down.

Chelsea captain John Terry cleared Oscar Cardozo’s shot off the line before Benfica went down to 10 men in the 40th minute when defender Maxi Pereira received his second yellow card for a sliding challenge on Jon Obi Mikel.

Cardozo had a shot tipped over the goal early in the second half and Chelsea midfielder Ramires missed a Salomon Kalou pass in front of an open goal. Fernando Torres shot wide and Mata forced a lunging save from Benfica goalkeeper Artur.

Javi Garcia headed in a corner kick in the 85th minute and Nelson Oliveira had a chance moments later to put Benfica ahead in the series on away goals, though shot just wide.

Meireles then clinched the victory in the third of four stoppage minutes when he carried the ball from inside his own half before firing a rising drive past Artur.

“Unfortunately we got hit on the counterattack,” Benfica coach Jorge Jesus told UEFA’s website. “Before halftime, Chelsea had created very little and we were very positive throughout the game. The players will leave with their heads held high.”

Real’s Rout

The other semifinal will feature two clubs that have combined for 13 European Cup titles after Madrid routed APOEL, the first team from Cyprus to reach the knockout stages.

Ronaldo opened the scoring in the 26th minute when he tapped in Marcelo’s cross from the left after it went past two teammates in front of goal. Kaka then doubled the lead 11 minutes later by curling a 25-yard shot inside the right post.

Gustavo Manduca scored for APOEL midway through the second half and Ronaldo add his second goal with a free kick in the 75th minute. After Real’s Jose Callejon scored, APOEL’s Esteban Solari converted a penalty kick. Real’s Angel di Maria then closed the scoring with four minutes left.

“We will do everything possible to reach the final,” Di Maria said.

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