Europa League - Heroic defending sees Benfica eliminate Juve and reach final

Europa League semi-final second leg, Juventus Stadium – Juventus 0 Benfica 0 (Benfica win 2-1 on aggregate)

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Europa League - Heroic defending sees Benfica eliminate Juve and reach final
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Benfica's Luisao celebrates at the end of the Europa League match against Juventus (Reuters)

Ten-man Benfica stayed on course for their first European trophy in 52 years with a hard-fought goalless draw against Juventus in tempestuous conditions that dashed the hosts’ hopes of a final on home soil.

The Portuguese champions will face Sevilla in the final at the Juventus Stadium on May 14.

Juventus edged a cagey opening period as Arturo Vidal spurned three openings – the Chilean midfielder going closest when Luisao reacted to turn his goal bound header over the bar.

The game opened up after the restart with both sides fashioning clear-cut chances before Enzo Perez picked up a second yellow card with 25 minutes remaining that altered the match's complexion.

Juventus poured forward in search of a winner and thought they had done enough when substitute Dani Osvaldo tucked home Paul Pogba’s cut-back only for the offside flag to deny them.

A late touchline fracas saw Mirko Vucinic and Lazar Markovic sent off from their respective benches as Benfica held on, despite being very briefly reduced to nine-men when the excellent Ezequiel Garay was stretchered off in injury time.

Benfica’s aggregate victory kept them on course for a remarkable quadruple and ensured they have an opportunity to atone for last year’s Europa League final defeat to Chelsea.

KEY MOMENTS

45+1’ – CLEARED OFF THE LINE - Vidal flings himself at Kwadwo Asamoah's fierce cross from the left and sees his effort headed off the line by Luisao.

50’ – RODRIGO BLAZES OVER - The ball comes to Rodrigo inside the penalty area. The Brazilian delays his shot before thrashing over the bar. Huge moment.

62’ – PIRLO EFFORT - Pirlo shapes to float a cross into the penalty area but, at the last second, shifts his body position and rifles a free-kick towards the top corner... Beaten clear by Oblak.

67’ – RED CARD - Benfica's Enzo Perez picks up a second booking. What an opportunity for the hosts.

82’ – DISALLOWED GOAL - Pogba turns the ball back across goal towards substitute Osvaldo… He’s fired home! But, just as he is about to whip off his shirt in celebration, the flag shoots up to deny him and Juventus.

88’ – IT’S KICKING OFF ON THE TOUCHLINE - The benches engage in some good old pushing and shoving. Tempers are flaring up. Substitute Mirko Vucinic is sent off, and is quickly followed by Lazar Markovic.

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KEY STATS

Juventus failed to score at home for the first time this season (in 25 competitive games)

Benfica have lost their last 7 European finals. Their last trophy was the 1962 Champions Cup. Can they finally break the Guttman curse?

Stats courtesy of Opta and Infostrada

TALKING POINT

Can Benfica finally win a European final? Much has been made of Bela Guttman’s prophecy that Benfica would go 100 years without winning a European trophy upon his departure. Will it be eighth time lucky for the Portuguese side?

MAN OF THE MATCH

Ezequiel Garay (Benfica): Had a superb game at the heart of the Benfica defence. Hopefully his late knock will not keep him out the final.

PLAYER RATINGS

Juventus: Buffon 6, Caceres 6, Bonucci 6, Chiellini 6, Lichtsteiner 6, Vidal 6, Pirlo 6, Pogba 6, Asamoah 6, Llorente 5, Tevez 6. Subs: Osvaldo 6, Giovinco 6, Marchisio 6.

Benfica: Oblak 7, Maxi Pereira 7, Luisao 7, Garay 8, Siqueira 6, Ruben Amorim 6, Perez 6, L Markovic 6, Rodrigo 6, Gaitan 6, Lima 6. Subs: Almeida 6, Salvio 6, Sulejmani 6.

MATCH IN A TWEET

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