Carlos Tévez’s late goal at the Estadio da Luz looked destined to give Juventus a valuable draw in Portugal, but thanks to a 84th blast from Lima into the top of Gianluigi Buffon’s net, Benfica was able to restore the lead it’d held for 71 minutes, giving the Portuguese champions a 2-1 lead at half time of the teams’ Europa League semifinal battle.
On the other side of the bracket, Sevilla used first half goals from Stephane M’bia and Carlos Bacca to take a 2-0 lead over fellow La Liga side Valencia ahead of next week’s return leg at the Mestalla.
The four teams are fighting for spots in May 14’s final in Turin, with Juventus favored to claim the club’s seventh major European honor. After one minute in Lisbon, however, the Old Lady’s hope of enjoying a major final at home was delivered a small blow.
That’s when Ezequiel Garay, on a second minute corner for Miralem Sulejmani, headed into the right of Gianluigi Buffon’s goal, giving the recently crowned Liga Sagres champions a quick lead. Juventus seized control of the game yet were unable to break through until the 73rd minute, when Tévez’s goal from 10 yards out threatened to send the match back to Italy even. Seven minutes from time, however, Lima beat Buffon from the right of the penalty area to give Benfica the one-goal lead – compensation for having given up a potentially valuable away goal.
At the Sanchez Pizjuan, Sevilla opened the scoring with M’Bia’s goal in the 33rd minute, a score Bacca’s far post finish three minutes later made into a two-goal advantage. Though they ceded possession throughout (holding only 41 percent of the ball), Sevilla was able to maintain that edge to the final whistle, though an 88th minute Eduardo Vargas header off Beto’s cross bar nearly duplicated Juventus’s feat of snaring an away goal.
Instead, Valencia will return home need two goals to turn climb out of the hole it’s dug in Seville. Juventus, on the other hand, could confirm that final on home soil with a 1-0 win next Thursday.
Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal has declared “ugly” Atletico Madrid unworthy finalists in the UEFA Champions League.
Bayern was eliminated in the Champions League semifinal by Atleti on Tuesday, with Diego Simeone’s Spanish side advancing on away goals.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ]
However, Vidal believed Bayern were the better team in the second leg, saying Atletico played “ugly football” to get through.
Today ugly football – Atletico – played against the best football in the world. The only time they saw the ball was for the goal.
They are going to be dreaming about us right up to the final. They did not have the ball, they took on the best team in the world, they took their chances and got to the final.
The best does not always win in football, like today. They are not deserved finalists.
Bayern Munich controlled more than 70-percent of possession and had 33 shots compared to Atletico’s nine, but those stats mean little as Antoine Griezmann’s away goal was enough to send Atleti to the final.
[ MORE: Former England striker Joe Cole headed to NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies ]
Atletico may not play the most attractive football, but after eliminating Barcelona and Bayern Munich in consecutive legs, it’s hard to argue anyone deserves this more than Simeone’s men.
The second leg of the Europa League semifinals kick off tomorrow, with two La Liga sides looking to make it an all-Spanish final.
[ MORE: Premier League Playback ]
Villarreal holds a 1-0 lead over Liverpool, while Sevilla scored two away goals in their 2-2 draw at Shakhtar Donetsk.
Liverpool vs. Villarreal – 3:05 p.m. ET
Villarreal won first leg 1-0
Adrian Lopez’s late winner in the first leg has given Villarreal a slight lead, while the Spanish side did well not to concede an away goal. However, Liverpool have overcome deficits at Anfield before, including their memorable 4-3 victory over Borussia Dortmund in the quarterfinals. Emre Can is back fit for the Reds, as manager Jurgen Klopp will hope his fellow German can help the team to a cup final in his first year in charge.
[ RELATED: Liverpool preparing for another big Thursday night at Anfield ]
Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – 3:05 p.m. ET
First leg ended 2-2 draw
Sevilla are looking to become the first team to win three consecutive Europa League titles as the two-time defending champions face off against Shakhtar Donetsk. Sevilla are in the driver’s seat after scoring two away goals in Ukraine, and will feel confident of advancing to the final with a great home record at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.
In the latest Men in Blazers podcast, Rog and Davo celebrate Leicester City’s improbable Premier League title with Leicester’s own Arlo White.
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LISBON, Portugal (AP) Portuguese and European police say they have broken up a cell of an important Russian mafia group that allegedly laundered money through European football clubs.
Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said in a statement Wednesday the group identified EU football clubs in financial distress and infiltrated them with benefactors who brought much-needed cash.
[ MORE: Man City bounced from UCL ]
Once they were in control, the mobsters allegedly laundered millions of euros (dollars) through player transfers, TV rights deals and betting.
Portuguese and European police on Tuesday raided third-division Portuguese club Uniao de Leiria and arrested three key members of the Russian gang. Three other Portuguese clubs’ premises were searched.
Europol said the operation helped identify serious crimes in Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom, though it gave no details.