Benfica 1-2 Chelsea: Chelsea Win UEFA Europa League After Hard-Fought Victory

SL Benfica 1-2 ChelseaAfter what had been an interesting season in the Europa League, the day had come for this season’s kings to finally get their crown. It would be either SL Benfica or Chelsea, Portugal or England, Red or Blue. One thing was sure, however: whoever would win it would be, having survived a long and challenging season in the Europa League, worthy and deserving of the crown. And so the stage was all set for an exciting Europa League Final.

The game started, as expected, with both sides hungry for early goals to slow down their opponents. Oscar Cardozo had the first attempt in the second minute, but sent the ball over Petr Cech and over the crossbar. As Benfica had a very offensive line-up, it was not surprising to see them in their opponents’ half, trying to create chances. Attempts came for Oscar Cardozo, Eduardo Salvio, and Nicolas Gaitan, but Ashley Cole, Gary Cahill, and Branislav Ivanovic all managed to protect their goalkeeper.

The first real chance for Chelsea came after 27 minutes for Oscar Dos Santos, but Artur Moraes stretched well to save. The remaining 18 minutes plus added time of the first half were all Benfica, with Chelsea confined to their own half. At this point, it looked as though Benfica would score first unless Chelsea were to come out of the dressing room stronger and quicker on the ball.

The best attempt in the first half came from Oscar Cardozo in the 42nd minute. Having picked up an Enzo Perez cross, the 30-year-old Paraguayan center-forward headed in the direction of the net at close range and was only prevented by Chelsea’s Gary Cahill. It surely otherwise would have been a goal.

Chelsea knew they needed to start the second half faster, and so start the second half faster they did! 15 minutes into the half, after Chelsea had had enough of Benfica’s attempts, Fernando Torres broke the deadlock thanks to a brilliant assist by Juan Mata. Petr Cech’s throw found Juan Mata, who delivered well to Fernando Torres who in turn managed to run past Luisao and confuse Artur. Luisao knew, now more than ever, that he couldn’t afford to slip again.

SL Benfica 1-2 ChelseaChelsea’s lead didn’t last too long, however, and they ended up being the providers of a Benfica equalizer. After a double-substitution by Benfica (Lima Dos Santos and Ola John on for Rodrigo Machado and Lorenzo Melgarejo respectively), Cesar Azpilicueta handled the ball inside the penalty area, and the referee pointed to the spot. Oscar Cardozo took the penalty and, as expected by the Benfica faithful, Petr Cech was defeated. With 20 minutes still to play, both sides tried everything they could to win the game in normal time. Jorge Jesus made his final substitution (Jardel Vieira for Ezequiel Garay) 10 minutes later, and the tempo of the Benfica game went a bit higher. Rafael Benitez made no substitutions, but his side was visibly also very hungry.

During the last 10 minutes: Cardozo shot - Petr Cech saved, Jardel shot - missed, Ramires shot - Luisao blocked, Azpilicueta shot - Artur saved, Lampard shot - hit the woodwork, and all that until, finally, in the last 70 seconds of the game, a winner emerged. 3 minutes were added on at the end of the normal 90 and both managers urged their sides on, hoping not to concede any free-kicks or corners.

Unfortunately for Benfica, however, they did just that. Having conceded a last-minute corner, Benfica tried to ensure nothing would come out of it, not noticing Branislav Ivanovic creep up behind them. The 29-year-old Serbian center-back rose, headed, and after the ball seemed to travel in slow motion towards the top-left corner of the Benfica net, scored, winning the Europa League for his side. The final whistle was blown a few seconds after the game had resumed, and Chelsea, having done so well to keep their opponents from scoring, were crowned 2013 Europa League Champions.

Benfica may have been ahead on statistics, but just as they had done in Munich a year before, Chelsea emerged “underdog winners.” As anyone who’s been involved in a game will tell you, sometimes one needs more than just dominance to win a European Final. Sometimes, all one needs is simply a little bit of luck.

  • SL Benfica 1-2 ChelseaPossession: Benfica (53%) | Chelsea (47%)
  • Total Attempts: Benfica (17) | Chelsea (11)
  • % on Target: Benfica (64.7%) | Chelsea (63.4%)
  • Corners: Benfica (4) | Chelsea (4)
  • Free-kicks: Benfica (22) | Chelsea (18)
  • Saves: Benfica (3) | Chelsea (3)
  • Offsides: Benfica (1) | Chelsea (8)
  • Fouls: Benfica (18) | Chelsea (18)
  • Yellow Cards: Benfica (2) | Chelsea (1)
  • Red Cards: Benfica (0) | Chelsea (0)
  • Substitutions: Benfica (3) | Chelsea (0)

Jorge Jesus and Rafael Benitez lined up the following squads:

Benfica Starting XI (4-3-3)

Artur Moraes | Andre Almeida, Ezequiel Garay, Luisao Da Silva (c), Lorenzo Melgarejo | Nemanja Matic, Enzo Perez, Rodrigo Machado | Eduardo Salvio, Nicolas Gaitan, Oscar Cardozo

Subs: Paulo Lopes, Jardel Vieira, Pablo Aimar, Andre Gomes, Urreta Da Luz, Lima Dos Santos, and Ola John

Chelsea Starting XI (4-2-3-1)

Petr Cech | Cesar Azpilicueta, Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill, Ashley Cole | Frank Lampard (c), David Luiz | Ramires Nascimiento, Juan Mata, Oscar Dos Santos | Fernando Torres

Subs: Ross Turnbull, Nathan Ake, Paulo Ferreira, Yossi Benayoun, Marko Marin, John Obi Mikel, and Victor Moses

Final Score: SL Benfica 1-2 Chelsea

Torres 60′, Ivanovic 90+3′ | Cardozo 68′ (pen)

Goals and Assists
  • Fernando Torres’ goal was a right-footed close-range shot (about 10 yards) on the hour mark, assisted by a Juan Mata pass; this goal was Fernando’s sixth and last in this season’s tournament
  • Oscar Cardozo’s goal was a penalty scored in the 68th minute, awarded for Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta’s handling of the ball inside the area; this goal was Oscar’s seventh and last in this season’s tournament
  • Branislav Ivanovic’s goal was a header into the top-left corner from about 22 yards out in the last seconds of the game, assisted by a Juan Mata corner; this trophy-winning goal was Branislav’s only goal in this season’s tournament
Man of the Match

Having won the match for his side with a brilliant header in the last minute, Branislav Ivanovic was, clearly and deservedly, man of the match.


Chelsea, having defeated SL Benfica in this final, were crowned Europa League Champions 2013, making it two European trophies in two years for the West-London power-house. It might have not worked out the way they had wanted to, but Benfica certainly had something to be proud about as they received their medals at the end of what had been a brilliant UEFA Europa League season for them.

Written by Ange Marline

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Benfica 3-1 Fenerbahçe: Portuguese Side Erase Advantage to Reserve Final Spot

SL Benfica vs. Fenerbahce SK

Benfica 3-1 FenerbahçeAykut Kocaman and his men went into this game with the slight advantage they had gained in the first leg of this tie. Knowing they had struggled to score even the only goal that had put them in this position, however, Kocaman knew that it was way to early to start celebrating. Jorge Jesus hoped that the home support and the determination of his players would help deliver his side to the promised land which was, in this case, the Amsterdam Arena.

Contrary to the other semi-final between Chelsea and Basel, this game saw early goals. 9 minutes was all it took for Benfica to level the scores on aggregate! Nicolas Gaitan took advantage of Fenerbhace’s distractedness and finished well past the Turkish captain in goal. A good run by Lima provided the assist for the 25-year-old Argentine winger. Soon after came a chance for the visitors to equalize as they were awarded a penalty for Benfica’s Ezequiel Garay’s handling of the ball inside the area. Dirk Kuyt made no mistakes with this one, and Artur had no chance.

The Turks’ joy was short-lived, however. Just 12 minutes after Dirk Kuyt’s successful penalty, Oscar Cardozo put his side back in front with an excellent strike that was assisted by Enzo Perez. It still wasn’t enough, however, as Fenerbahce were still through on away goals were things to remain as they were at half time.

One goal was, at this point, all that was needed to take the hosts through to the final, and Oscar Cardozo ensured they got it with another beautiful goal in the 66th minute, well-provided by Luisao. The Portuguese side then managed to hang on for the remaining 24 minutes or so (despite attempts by their visitors), showing that they did, indeed, deserve to be in the Amsterdam Final.

  • Benfica 3-1 FenerbahçeBenfica had 2 more attempts (11) over Fenerbahce (9)
  • Benfica were 54.54% on target and enjoyed a whole 69% possession, while Fenerbahce were 44.44% on target with the remaining 31% possession
  • Benfica were awarded 24 free-kicks on the night, while Fenerbahce were given only 11
  • 33 fouls were committed between the two teams during this match; Benfica committed 36.4% of those fouls (12), while Fenerbahce got themselves into more trouble having committed the remaining 63.6% (21) of the fouls
  • Benfica were awarded 3 corners compared to Fenerbahce’s 1
  • Artur Moraes made 2 saves as opposed to Volkan Demirel, who made 4
  • 5 substitutions were made during this match; 2 by Benfica and the remaining 3 by Fenerbahce
  • A total of 4 yellow cards (2-a-side) was awarded between the two sides by French referee, Stephane Lannoy
  • No players were sent off during this game

Jorge Jesus and Aykut Kocaman lined up the following squads:

Benfica Starting XI

Artur, Pereira, Garay, Luisao (c), Almeida, Matic, Gaitan, Lima, Perez, Salvio, Cardozo

Subs: Lopes, Melgarejo, Miranda, Aimar, Martins, Urreta, and Rodrigo

Fenerbahce Starting XI

Demirel (c), Gonul, Yobo, Korkmaz, Ziegler, Erkin, Sahin, Kuyt, Cristian, Ucan, Sow

Subs: Gunok, Irtegun, Kaldirim, Stoch, Topuz, Senturk, and Simsek

Final Score: SL Benfica* 3-1 Fenerbahce SK (Agg: 3-2)

Gaitan 9′, Oscar Cardozo 35′, 66′ | Kuyt 23′ (pen)

Goals and Assists
  • Nicolas Gaitan’s goal was a left-footed shot in the 9th minute of the first half, assisted by a Lima Dos Santos pass; this goal was Nicolas’ first in the tournament
  • Dirk Kuyt’s goal was a penalty, scored in the 23rd minute as a result of a handball by Benfica’s Ezequiel Garay in the penalty area; the resulting goal was Dirk’s fourth in the tournament
  • Oscar Cardozo’s first goal was a left-footed shot in the 35th minute, assisted by an Enzo Perez free-kick; this goal was Oscar’s fifth in the tournament
  • The second goal scored by Oscar Cardozo’s (which was, by the way, Benfica’s 600th goal in Europe) was yet again a left-footed shot in the 66th minute and assisted by a Luisao Da Silva pass. This brilliant goal to put his side into the Europa League final was Oscar’s sixth in the tournament
Europa League Final

Having eliminated Fenerbahce SK, SL Benfica are through to the final of the competition and will face Chelsea of England, who had managed to secure their place in the final against Basel of Switzerland just minutes earlier.

Written by Ange Marline

Fenerbahçe 1-0 Benfica: Turkish Side Take the Lead on Aggregate After Home Win

Fenerbahce SK vs. SL Benfica

Fenerbahçe SK 1-0 SL BenficaTo get to the semi-finals of this season’s Europa League, SK Fenerbahce had managed to eliminate Lazio, Viktoria Plzen, and BATE Borisov before themselves. In the same manner, Benfica had managed to eliminate Newcastle United, Girdondins de Bordeaux, and Bayer Leverkusen in previous Europa League match-ups. Fenerbahce had been in the competition longer than Benfica, however, and so they had played a few more teams than their opponents on the night. The Turkish side had emerged top in Group C and were, therefore, no underdogs to the Portuguese giants, who were thought to be the stronger team by the majority. Benfica hadn’t lost a single match in their Europa League campaign before this match. Despite having been goalless for a whole 72 minutes, this one turned out to be quite a match!

The game would have started so well for the Portuguese visitors had it not been for a smart save by Volkan Demirel on the 5th minute. Salvio had a decent chance, but it wasn’t meant to be. Aimar then had another chance to put his side ahead just 8 minutes from Salvio’s attempt, but just missed the target. Fenerbahce were able to dominate from then on, coming close more than once and even hitting the woodwork once. Fenerbahce were awarded a good chance to take a well-deserved lead on the brink of half-time when they were awarded a penalty from a foul by John on Gokhan Gonul inside the area. Cristian took the penalty but, once again, just hit the woodwork despite defeating Artur. The home players were frustrated for having missed a chance like this as the half-time whistle was blown. Benfica were, more than anything, relieved that they have survived the threat of the Turks as they went into their dressing room at half-time.

At half-time, Fenerbahce looked more like the team to win, as Benfica had been clearly outplayed. Fenerbahce started on a high, with their fans cheering even louder as the game got more intense. A good attempt in the early minutes of the second half inspired the Turkish side even more as they looked to break the deadlock. Unfortunately, however, Dirk Kuyt’s shot hit the woodwork once again! How very frustrating for the Turks! Benfica were gifted a good chance just 9 minutes into the second 45 as well but, just as their opponents had done thrice already, they hit the woodwork. Benfica were just unlucky, as a goal would have certainly changed their game.

The woodwork had been Fenerbahce’s biggest enemy on the night but, as it turned out to be, the woodwork was instrumental in what would be the only goal of the game. After a goalless 71 minutes on the pitch, Egemen Korkmaz finally managed to break the deadlock with a header just off the post and into the net from a Cristian corner, a well-deserved goal for the home side.

The last 20 or so minutes were intense, but Fenerbahce managed to prevent their visitors from getting an equalizer, and it ended 1-0 to the home side after what had been a very, very frustratingly long search for the goal that would separate the sides ahead of their second-leg clash.

  • Fenerbahçe SK 1-0 SL BenficaFenerbahce had 2 more attempts (9) over Benfica (5)
  • Fenerbahce were 66.66% on target and enjoyed a whole 62% of the possession, while Benfica were 40% on target and had the remaining 38% possession
  • Fenerbahce were awarded 19 free-kicks on the night, while Benfica got 16
  • 25 fouls were committed between the two teams on the night; Fenerbahce committed 32% of those fouls (8 fouls), while Benfica committed the remaining 68% (17 fouls).
  • Fenerbahce got 8 corners, while Benfica only received 4
  • Volkan Demirel made 2 saves compared to Artur’s 4
  • Fenerbahce hit the woodwork 3 times, while Benfica did so once
  • 6 substitutions (3-a-side) were made during this match; Aycut Kocaman and Jorge Jesus replaced two midfielders and one striker each.
  • 7 yellow cards (3 to Fenerbahce and 4 to Benfica) were issued by referee on the night, Milorad Mazic
  • No players were sent off during this game

Aycut Kocaman and Jorge Jesus lined up the following squads:

Fenerbahce Starting XI

Demirel, Korkmaz, Yobo, Ziegler, Gonul, Topal, Meireles, Cristian, Sow, Kuyt, Webo

Subs: Gunok, Irtegun, Sahin, Krasic, Topuz, Ucan, and Senturk

Benfica Starting XI

Artur, Pereira, Garay, Jardel, Melgarejo, Matic, Gomes, Aimar, John, Salvio, Cardozo

Subs: Lopes, Roderick, Martins, Gaitan, Urreta, Lima, and Rodrigo

Final Score: Fenerbahce SK 1-0 SL Benfica

Korkmaz 72′

Goals and Assists
  • Egemen Korkmaz’s goal was a header on the 71st minute, assisted by a Cristian corner via a little deflection and off the woodwork; this goal was Egemen’s 2nd in the competition

Written by Ange Marline

Europa League Quarter-Finals Second Leg Review: Part 2

Rubin Kazan vs. Chelsea

Rubin Kazan 3-2 ChelseaHaving had a poor game at Stamford Bridge in London, Rubin hoped they would be able turn the scores around when Chelsea were scheduled to visit on April 11th. Rafael Benitez’ side hoped to score a few away goals, however, and as it turned out, they would do it first!

The first half started just as Chelsea would have wanted it to. A defensive and goalkeeping error saw Fernando Torres find the net in only the 5th minute. Well assisted by Frank Lampard, all Torres had to do was just aim over Ryzhikov and the Spanish striker managed to to just that. This early goal, however encouraging for the visitors, also acted as a wake-up call to the hosts who looked to find the net quite a few times before the half-time whistle was blown. Fernando Torres’ brilliant goal inside just 5 minutes was what, up to this point, separated the two sides on the night. The aggregate score, at this point, was 4-1 to Chelsea.

Kurban Berdyev decided Oleg Kuzmin would make way for Vitali Kaleshin as the sides came out for the second half. It seemed Berdyev’s half-time prayers were starting to be answered as his side found their first goal just 6 minutes into the half. A great header into the net by Ivan Marcano (all from a Gokdeniz Karadeniz corner and helped out by a Pablo Orbaiz cross) restored the home side’s hopes. Their joy wouldn’t last long, however, as Chelsea went ahead yet again just 4 minutes after that, courtesy of a great Victor Moses goal. Ramires provided the assist and the home side now had to work even harder if they were to go through to the semis.

The second half was just filled with quick goals from both sides, with the third second-half goal coming just 7 minutes after the second. Ramires had just made way for John Obi Mikel, and the latter had been on just 2 minutes when Gokdeniz Karadeniz leveled things for his side, assisted by Cristian Ansaldi. It was 2 goals from 2 headers for the home side, and with 27 minutes still to play, they were starting to believe it was possible to overturn the aggregate which now read Rubin Kazan 3-5 Chelsea.

13 minutes later, Rubin Kazan were awarded yet another penalty (as they had been in the first leg of this tie). Cesar Azpilicueta had committed a foul on Aleksandr Ryazantsev inside the penalty area and the resulting penalty was well-taken by 25-year-old Israeli midfielder, Bibras Natkho. It was now 4-5 on aggregate and all it would have taken Rubin was 2 goals from this point. Fortunately for Chelsea, however, and unfortunately for them, they weren’t able to score even one of those goals, and it ended Rubin Kazan 3-2 Chelsea. The English side had managed to get past their Russian hosts, who had given them quite a scare!

Statistic-wise, Rubin Kazan had a total of 20 attempts against Chelsea’s 8. Chelsea were 50% on target, while Rubin were only 35% on target. Each side picked up 1 yellow card on the night. No players were sent off during this game.

Kurban Berdyev and Rafael Benitez lined up the following squads:

Rubin Kazan Starting XI

Ryzhikov, Ansaldi, Navas, Marcano, Kuzmin, Eremenko, Karadeniz (c), Natkho, Kasaev, Rondon, Orbaiz

Subs: Arlauskis, Sharonov, Kislyaki, Tore, Dyadyun, Ryazantsev, and Kaleshin

Chelsea Starting XI

Cech, Luiz, Ferreira, Terry (c), Azpilicueta, Ake, Lampard, Benayoun, Ramires, Torres, Moses

Subs: Turnbull, Ivanovic, Marin, Mata, Hazard, Mikel, and Oscar

Final Score: Rubin Kazan 3-2 Chelsea* (Agg: 4-5)

Torres 5′, Moses 55′ | Marcano 51′, Gokdeniz Karadeniz 62′, Natcho 75′ (pen)


Having eliminated Rubin Kazan, Chelsea were drawn against Basel 1983 of Switzerland for the semi-finals of the competition. They will play the first leg of this game away and the second leg at home.

Newcastle United vs. SL Benfica

Newcastle United 1-1 SL BenficaNewcastle United had had a bad night in Lisbon during the first leg of this game, and so they were determined to turn things around in Newcastle. Benfica knew the game wasn’t quite over, however, and planned to still play an attacking game despite their lead on aggregate.

Both teams had shown that they wanted it, and so the first half was very tight. There were to be no goals in not only the first forty-five, but also for a big part of the second forty-five as well. It took 71 minutes for a goal to break the dead-lock in this game, but the wait was worth it, as we saw two brilliant goals at the end of this game.

Some great chances during this game included a great save by Massasio Haidara just off the line. Tim Krul had been defeated by a determined Nicolas Gaitan, but his defender was there to save him some early blushes.

Another great chance in this game was brought out by Newcastle United’s Papiss Cisse. Sylvain Marveaux had just come on for Haidara, and he almost provided immediate impact with a superb cross to Cisse, but the Senegal International just headed wide. Cisse managed to score just moments later, however, and what a goal it was! Assisted by Shola Ameobi (who had come on for Gael Bigirimana just as the second half had gotten underway), Cisse nodded the ball into the net from close range to make it 2-3 to Benfica on aggregate.

The game looked set to end like this, but Eduardo Salvio prevented a Tim Krul clean sheet by scoring a beauty, assisted by Rodrigo in the second of the three minutes added on at the end of the ninety. Benfica were through to the semi-finals despite this draw, however, as they had done well in Lisbon. The score on aggregate at the end of the game: Newcastle United 2-4 Benfica.

Statistic-wise, Newcastle had 10 attempts in total against 12 attempts for Benfica. Newcastle were, however, more accurate (50%) in front of goal than their opponents (41.7%). Benfica had better chances overall. A total of 7 yellow cards were issued during this match, 4 of which went to the home side. No players were sent off during this match.

Alan Pardew and Jorge Jesus lined up the following squads:

Newcastle Starting XI

Krul, Simpson, Williamson, Haidara, Yanga-Mbiwa, Cabaye (c), Sissoko, Gutierrez, Anita, Bigirimana, Cisse

Subs: Elliot, Perch, Gosling, Campbell, Arfa, Marveaux, and Ameobi

Benfica Starting XI

Artur, Luisao (c), Garay, Almeida, Salvio, Gaitan, Matic, Perez, Melgarejo, Lima, John

Subs: Lopes, Pereira, Aimar, Gomes, Rodrigo, Jardel, and Cardozo

Final Score: Newcastle United 1-1 SL Benfica* (Agg: 2-4)

Cisse 71′ | Salvio 90+2′


Having eliminated Newcastle United, Benfica were drawn against Fenerbahce of Turkey for the semi-finals of this competition. They played the first leg away and the second leg at home.

Written by Ange Marline

Europa League Quarter-Finals First Leg Review: Part 2

Chelsea vs. Rubin Kazan

Chelsea 3-1 Rubin KazanRubin Kazan, having already eliminated the defending champions of one European competition, weren’t at all feeling like underdogs when they headed to London for the first leg of this game. Kurban Berdyev’s side, however, knew that this one wouldn’t be an easy match and that a lot of work would have to be done if they wanted to get past the current champions of Europe. Rafa Benitez’ side, in the same manner, prepared themselves for a tough game against the Russian team.

This game started with both sides rushing to create chances and score early goals to demotivate and slow down their opponents. Chelsea managed to do this first, however, to the delight of the home fans. Just a quarter of an hour into the game, David Luiz’s long pass met Fernando Torres, who did well to finish the job and give his side the early lead.

The visitors were even more stunned when, just 18 minutes later, Victor Moses, who had had an attempt saved by Ryzhikov some moments earlier, put the second one into the net, assisted by Juan Mata, to make it 2-0 for Chelsea.

Rubin were now awake and working to get a goal for themselves before the break. Things went their way and they were, just 4 minutes from the break, awarded a penalty for a handball by Chelsea captain John Terry. 25-year-old Israeli International Bebras Natcho confidently scored from the resulting penalty, and the Russian side was alive again as the two teams headed into the break.

The second half started stronger for both teams with Chelsea looking to regain the two-goal cushion and Rubin looking to get another important away goal. Chelsea, however, remained in control over their opponents and continued to test Ryzhikov in the Rubin goal. That’s not to say Petr Cech was having it easy! Jose Rondon and Gokdeniz Karadeniz continued to make him uncomfortable by attempting to put more goals past him. The 30-year-old Czech International in the Chelsea goal also had to remain alert.

Goals looked to be coming for both sides, but it would be Chelsea who would score the only goal in the second half on the night to win the game 3-1. Fernando Torres met an excellent cross from fellow Spaniard Juan Mata and headed past Ryzhikov to give his side a decent advantage before their trip to Russia.

Statistic-wise, Chelsea had a total of 16 attempts against Rubin’s 10, meaning that Ryzhikov was the busier goalkeeper (especially in the second half). 4 yellow cards were issued between the two teams; 3 to the hosts and 1 to the visitors. No players were sent off during this match.

Rafael Benitez and Kurban Berdyev lined up the following squads:

Chelsea Starting XI

Cech, Luiz, Terry (c), Azpilicueta, Bertrand, Ramires, Lampard, Mata, Moses, Benayoun, Torres

Subs: Trurnbull, Ivanovic, Ferreira, Mikel, Oscar, Hazard, and Marin

Rubin Kazan Starting XI

Ryzhikov, Ansaldi, Cesar Navas, Kaleshin, Sharonov (c), Orbaiz, Eremenko, Karadeniz, Natcho, Kuzmin, Dyadyun

Subs: Arlauskis, Marcano, Ryazantsev, Kislyak, Gokhan Tore, Rondon, and Kasaev

Final Score: Chelsea 3-1 Rubin Kazan

Torres 16′ 70′, Moses 32′ | Natcho 41′ (pen)

SL Benfica vs. Newcastle United

SL Benfica 3-1 Newcastle UnitedAlan Pardew and his men traveled to Lisbon with an aim of scoring as many away goals as would be possible. Jorge Jesus knew just how strong their English opposition would be and did all the necessary preparations to ensure they wouldn’t achieve their aim.

Alan Pardew’s side started off strong and confident, with the first attempt coming after just 2 minutes and their first goal just 10 minutes after that. Papiss Cisse, who had been threatening from the word go, picked up a low ball from Moussa Sissoko and didn’t hesitate to fire it past Artur from close range. The English side knew that this wasn’t enough, however. The hosts started looking for an equalizer almost immediately.

After two scares at the Newcastle goal, Benfica finally managed to score 13 minutes after the visitors’ goal. Rodrigo, picking up the pieces of an Oscar Cardozo attempt, got the ball past Tim Krul to put his side level on goals. And they weren’t done yet! Had it not been for the hard work of Tim Krul, Andre Gomes and John would have put their side ahead just 2 minutes after their first goal. The rest of the half was dominated by the home side, who were set on scoring more than just 1 goal.

The second half started well for the visitors as well. Just 2 minutes after the whistle had been blown, Papiss Cisse almost put his side ahead again but was only prevented by the woodwork, leaving Artur sighing with relief. The home side was able to regain control in the moments that followed after fresh legs were introduced on the hour mark.

The Benfica goalscorer, Rodrigo made way for Lima, a move that ended up being successful just 4 minutes later. Lima, having stolen a Santon ball, made it easily past Krul and scored into an empty net, putting his side ahead for the first time in the game.

As if Newcastle hadn’t suffered enough, Benfica were awarded a chance to add to their tally just 6 minutes later when Steven Taylor committed a foul inside the penalty area. Oscar Cardozo successfully put the ball past Tim Krul from the resulting penalty and it was now Benfica 3-1 Newcastle.

Despite some good attempts towards the end of the game, there were no more goals in this game. Benfica finished pleased ahead of their trip to Newcastle for the second leg. Alan Pardew’s men knew they would have a lot of work to do if they were to go any further in the competition.

Benfica had a total of 20 attempts against only 7 for Newcastle. Newcastle United hit the woodwork twice. Antony Gautier issued 4 yellow cards (2-a-side) between the two teams. No players were sent off during this game.

Alan Pardew and Jose Jesus lined up the following squads:

Benfica Starting XI

Artur, Luisao (c), Garay, Andre Almeida, Oscar Cardozo, Gaitan, Matic, Andre Gomes, John, Melgarejo, Rodrigo

Subs: Lopes, Roderick, Aimar, Perez, Urreta, Pereira, and Lima

Newcastle Starting XI

Krul, Santon, Yanga-Mbiwa, Taylor, Perch, Cabaye (c), Sissoko, Gutierrez, Simpson, Cisse, Marveaux

Subs: Elliot, Williamson, Obertan, Campbell, Anita, Gosling, and Ameobi

Final Score: SL Benfica 3-1 Newcastle United

Cisse 12′ | Rodrigo 25′, Lima 65′, Oscar Cardozo 71′ (pen)

Written by Ange Marline

Europa League Round of 16 Second Leg Review: Part 1

Zenit Saint Petersburg vs. Basel 1893

Zenit Saint Petersburg vs. Basel 1893Zenit had a hard time in Switzerland in the first leg of this match, having failed to score any away goals, which would have been important for them as they prepared to host the same team for the second leg. The Russian side had, hence, created a problem for themselves, as Basel had proved to be a very strong team. Zenit, however, did not lose any hope as they had a perfect home record in the competition, having won all six of their home games by 2-goal margins.

Basel started their game hungry for goals with Stocker threatening a bit at the beginning, before having to be sent off to make way for Fabian Frei after an injury by Zenit’s Kerzhakov. The hosts continued to struggle to get both goals back, and managed to get the first one inside just half an hour and restoring faith in themselves. A Hulk corner, met by Lombaerts, allowed Witsel to get his shot past Sommer in the Basel goal, and the hosts were hoping once more.

Zenit’s work was made easier when Basel’s Diaz picked up 2 yellow cards in the margin of just 4 minutes and got himself sent off right at the end of the first half. The home side were now stronger and threatened more, but none of their last-minute attempts (in the first half) translated into goals.

The second half started well for the home side, although the Swiss visitors were very strong at the back, making their lives even more difficult. Sommer was tested a few times, but he just kept holding on. A strong Streller made way for Sauro, and the 23-year-old Argentinian made sure to reinforce his side’s defense.

Zenit had an opportunity to equalize on aggregate and take the game to extra time when Shirokov was gifted a penalty. Sommer made no mistakes, however, making sure to save and taking his side through to the quarter-finals on.

Statistic-wise, Zenit were, by far, the more threatening side, having had a total of 26 attempts (hitting the woodwork once) against Basel’s 3. Zenit had 68% possession throughout the night, as compared to Basel’s 32%. 4 yellow cards were issued during this game and they all went to the home side. Only 1 red card was issued and it went to Basel’s Marcelo Diaz.

Luciano Spalleti and Murat Yakin lined up the following squads:

Zenit Starting XI

Zhenov, Anyukov, Lombaerts, Hubocan, Shirokov (c), Denisov, Alves, Kerzhakov, Hulk, Witsel

Subs: Baburin, Rodic, Lukovic, Semak, Bukharov, Fayzulin, and Bystrov

Basel Starting XI

Somme, Ho, Dragovic, Schar, Streller (c), Degen, Diaz, Salah, Cabral, Elneny, Stocker

Subs: Vailati, Yapi, Frei, Zoua, Frei, Steinhofer, and Sauro

Final Score: Zenit Saint Petersburg 1-0 Basel 1893* (Agg: 1-2)

Witsel 30′


Having eliminated Zenit, Basel are through to the quarter-finals of this competition and will face Tottenham Hotspur of England as their opponents, as announced in the draw on March 15th. They will play the first leg of this game away, and the second leg at home.

Girondins de Bordeaux vs. SL Benfica

Girondins de Bordeaux vs. SL BenficaHaving managed to hold Benfica, and only just conceded one goal, Bordeaux’s mission in the second leg wouldn’t be too tough, given they had a strong team planned. All they needed to take the game to extra time was 1 goal, which they were confident they would get. They would, however, only go through if they managed to prevent a strong Benfica from scoring any away goals.

This match started well for the home side, who were looking to erase their opponent’s goal with early attempts from Diabate and Saivet. Carrasso wasn’t too bothered in the Bordeaux goal for the first 20 minutes, but slowly, the away side picked up on their pace and started to counter much more confidently.

30 minutes in, the away side had their first goal, adding to their tally significantly, and making their hosts more uncomfortable. A corner from John found Jardel, who was able to head the ball into the net to make it 2-0 on aggregate. The home side now had to up their game even more.

The second half came and the home side played with more urgency, managing to scare their visitors a few times before they could respond. It was an all-Bordeaux game until Jorge Jesus decided to make a very important change to his side’s attack; Oscar Cardozo in for Rodrigo.

Some balance, however little, was established between the two teams as time continued to run out for the French side. The hosts regained a little hope just 8 minutes later when Diabate finally got one in for his hard work. Henrique’s long ball forward was met by the 24-year-old Malian who managed to put it past Artur with class.

The home side’s joy was short-lived, however, when just seconds later, Oscar Cardozo did the same thing for his team. Carrasso had no chance against the Paraguayan striker. Hope was once again lost for Francis’ side. 4 minutes were added on at the end of this game, and 2 goals were scored during this time. The first was to the home side when Jardel accidentally put the ball into his own net, and the second was another marvelous strike from Oscar Cardozo to end Bordeaux dreams of going to the next round.

Statistic-wise, the home side had a total of 15 attempts, the away side managing only 6. Both sides were close, having each gotten 4 corners, 1 good attempt, and almost equal possession (Bordeaux had 52% possession against Benfica’s 48%). Ovidiu Alin Hategan issued a total of 6 yellow cards (3-a-side) between the two teams. No players were sent off during this match.

Francis Gillot and Jorge Jesus lined up the following squads:

Bordeaux Starting XI

Carrasso, Henrique, Sane, Tremoulinas, Plasil (c), Mariano, Sertic, Obraniak, Diabate, Saivet, Maurice-Belay

Subs: Olimpa, Marange, Planus, Poundje, Sacko, Poko, and Khalfallah

Benfica Starting XI

Artur, Roderick, Jardel, Andre Almeida, Salvio, Gaitan (c), Matic, Perez, John, Melgarejo, Rodrigo

Subs: Paulo Lopes, Miguel Vitor, Aimar, Lima, Oscar Cardozo, Carlos Martins, and Maxi Pereira

Final Score: Girondins de Bordeaux 2-3 SL Benfica* (Agg: 2-4)

Diabate 74′, Jardel 90+1′ (o.g) | Jardel 30′, Oscar Cardozo 75′, 90+2′


Having eliminated Bordeaux, Benfica are through to the quarter-finals of the competition and will face Newcastle United, as announced in the draw on March 15th. They will play the first leg of this game at home, and the second leg away.

Written by Ange Marline

Europa League Round of 16 First Leg Review: Part 1

Basel 1893 vs. Zenit Saint Petersburg

Basel 1893 vs. Zenit Saint PetersburgZenit cruised through to the Round of 16 thanks to a great performance against Liverpool in the Round of 32, but their run of luck seemed to have come to an end when they traveled to Basel for the first leg of this tie. Basel, having managed to get past a tough Dnipro, were still determined to go for the title.

This match started well for the home side, who had an opportunity to go forward early, had Diaz not missed the target. The Russian visitors were by no means asleep during this game, and so they also went out and got an opportunity for themselves, but Basel were not going to concede early.

It was still anyone’s game; the first half having been a 50/50 game. Both teams held each other quite comfortably and there didn’t seem to be a goal coming at all. The team with possibly the better attempts and more possession was the home side, but Zenit held strong looking for an away goal.

The second half saw Luciano Spalleti introduce the fresh legs of Fayzulin on for a hardworking Semak. Hulk was more or less released now, and was able to make a few attempts, but Basel just wouldn’t let him. Steinhöfer then came off for Degen, and soon after that, Serey Die made way for Elneny. The game still looked tied and it didn’t seem like we would see a goal from either side for the first leg, not with the kind of defense Zenit had!

Murat Yakin put Frei on for Zoua, bringing a little more edge to the Basel game. 4 minutes later, Basel finally got their hard-earned goal when a Mohamed Salah effort paved the way for his teammate to get back a strong Malafeev. The home side didn’t think that one goal was enough for the 90 minutes and kept searching for one more into the 4 minutes of added time after the game. An opportunity to add to their tally came right at the end of the game, when Luis Neto fouled Salah in the box, granting Basel a last-minute penalty. Frei didn’t waste this chance for his team and put the ball into the net for a second Basel goal from the spot.

Basel had a total of 21 attempts against Zenit’s 11; the home side had much better attempts as well. A total of 4 yellow cards was issued between the two teams; the away side only picking up 1. Zenit’s Luis Neto was the only player to be sent off during this match and will miss the second leg.

Murat Yakin and Luciano Spalleti lined up the following squads:

Basel Starting XI

Sommer (c), Park Joo Ho, P. Degen, Dragovic, Schar, D. Degen, Diaz, Salah, Cabral, Serey Die, Zoua

Subs: Vaillati, Voser, Sauro, Stocker, Elneny, Frei, and Steinhofer

Zenit Starting XI

Malafeev, Lombaerts, Luis Neto, Hubocan, Rodic, Shirokov (c), Denisov, Witsel, Semak, Hulk, Danny

Subs: Zhenov, Bruno Alves, Lukovic, Bystrov, Bukharov, Kerzakhov, and Fayzulin

Final Score: Basel 1893 2-0 Zenit Saint Petersburg

Diaz 83′ | Frei 90 + 4′ (pen)

SL Benfica vs. Girondins de Bordeaux

SL Benfica vs. Girondins de BordeauxHaving overcome tough ties against Leverkusen and Kyiv, Benfica and Bordeaux had an even tougher game to play against each other in the Round of 32. The first leg being played in Portugal, the French side were to make it their mission to take each and every chance as it would come and use it to score as many goals as possible.

Benfica, in the same way, were to avoid conceding at all costs, knowing how tough their opponents are known to be domestically. That said, both manager, (with teams seemingly of the same strength) played more or less the same kind of players on the night.

As soon as Alon Yefet blew the first whistle, the home side were already starting to threaten Carrasso in the Bordeaux goal; hoping that an early goal would demoralize their visitors and prevent them from getting any away goals. 12 minutes in, however, Bordeaux had their first shot, courtesy of Obraniak, but Artur saved it. And a 50/50 game went on.

What was to be the only goal in this game came in the 21st minute, thanks to a powerful shot by Rodrigo; onto the crossbar (with a touch from Carrasso’s back) in an embarrassing manner (for Carrasso), all to the delight of a Portuguese crowd.

The 50/50 game continued all the way to the final whistle, and Benfica would have the upper hand when they would visit France. Although there were some decent attempts from both sides in the second half, Carrasso, Artur, and both sides’ defenders prevented any other goals from getting in.

Statistic-wise, Benfica had a total of 8 attempts; 3 of them being off target. Bordeaux had a total of 11, 3 of which were off target as well. Both Carrasso and Artur were tested equally, both of them having made 3 saves each. More than 60% of this game was played in midfield. The home side had better chances on the night. Alon Yefet only issued 2 yellow cards on the night, both of which went to the home side. No players were sent off during this game.

Jorge Jesus and Francis Gillot lined up the following squads:

Benfica Starting XI

Artur, Roderick, Luisao (c), Garay, Almeida, Gaitan, Martins, Rodrigo, Melgarejo, John, Cardozo

Subs: Lopes, Pereira, Jardel, Aimar, Lima, Salvio, and Perez

Bordeaux Starting XI

Carrassso, Sane, Marioano, Tremoulinas, Plasil (c), Sertic, Maurice-Belay, Faubert, Obraniak, Rolan

Subs: Keita, Marange, Planus, Poundje, Ben Khalfallah, Traore, and Bellion

Final Score: SL Benfica 1-0 Girondins de Bordeaux

Carrasso 21′ (o.g)

Written by Ange Marline

Europa League Round of 32 Second Leg Review: Part 2

Metalist Kharkiv vs. Newcastle United

Metalist Kharkiv vs. Newcastle UnitedAfter a very tight match in the first leg, this match looked like it would go to extra time and penalties! Both teams seemed to be of equal strength going into this game, and it wasn’t too clear who would emerge victorious. The answer to that question came on the 64th minute from a very essential Shola Ameobi. Even so, it seemed that only a granted decision (the penalty decision from which came Shola’s goal) would ensure these two teams were separated. Newcastle then held on after that goal and ended up wining the game. The home side, however, had more attempts on goal and better chances during this game. Unfortunately for them, it wasn’t their night.

A total of 5 yellow cards were issued on the night between the two teams but no players were sent off during this match.

Myron Markevich and Alan Pardew lined up the following squads:

Metalist Starting XI:

Goryainov, Villagra, Torsiglieri, Fininho, Gueye, Cleiton Xavier, Sosa (c), Edmar., Cristaldo, Marlos, Torres

Subs: Disljenkovic, Berezovchuk, Shelayev, Krasnopyorov, Jaja, Willian, and Blanco

Newcastle Starting XI:

Krul, Coloccini (c), Simpson, Yanga-Mbiwa, Haidara, Anita, Sissoko, Marveaux, Cisse, Cabaye, Shola Ameobi

Subs: Elliot, Taylor, Gosling, Obertan, Bigirimana, Gutierrez, and Perch

Final Score: Metalist Kharkiv 0-1 Newcastle United* (Agg: 0-1)

Shola Ameobi 64′ (pen)

Round of 16:

Having knocked out Metalist, Newcastle United will face Anzhi Makhachkala in the round of 16. They will play the first leg of this game away and the second leg at home.

SL Benfica vs. Bayer 04 Leverkusen

SL Benfica vs. Bayer 04 LeverkusenAfter a thrilling first leg match, these two teams set out impressively to get past each other once again. Benfica had a slight advantage going into this game, as they had won the first leg, but knowing that an away goal from Leverkusen would end things, they tried to score as many goals as they could , or at least try and defend what they already had. They settled for the first option, of course, as they didn’t let themselves get too threatened. They were the first to score and managed to even get a second one to seal things off. Leverkusen didn’t do a bad job either, as they controlled a big part of the game and tried to capitalize where they could. The away side had more attempts and better chances, but Benfica were just too strong and managed to seal a spot in the round of 16. 5 yellow cards were issued between the two teams; the home side picking up one more than their visitors. No players were sent off during this game.

Jorge Jesus and Sascha Lewandowski lined up the following squads:

Benfica Starting XI:

Artur, Luisao (c), Garay, Andre Almeida, John, Gaitan, Matic, Perez, Melgarejo, Oscar Cardozo, Carlos Martins

Subs: Paulo Lopes, Maxi Pereira, Aimar, Andre Gomes, Salvio, Lima, and Jardel

Leverkusen Starting XI:

Leno, Wollscheid, Boenisch, Carvajal, Omer Toprak, Bender, Rolfes (c), Schurrle, Castro, Kiessling, Reinartz

Subs: Rensing, Schwabb, Friedrich, Kadlec, Fernandes, Milik, and Hegeler

Final Score: SL Benfica* 2-1 Bayer 04 Leverkusen (Agg: 3-1)

John 60′, Matic 77′; Schurrle 75′

Round of 16:

Having eliminated Leverkusen, Benfica will face Bordeaux in the round of 16. They will play the first leg of this game at home and the second leg away.

Written by Ange Marline

Bayer 04 Leverkusen vs. SL Benfica

Europa League Round of 32 First Leg Review: Part 2

Newcastle United vs. Metalist Kharkiv

Newcastle United vs. Metalist KharkivThe Ukrainians went to St. James’ Park on a mission to show how strong they were, and managed to accomplish that mission at the end of the day by keeping a clean sheet. Despite having conceded a few disallowed goals, Metalist kept their game strong, even without Taison. Olexandr Goryainov, I think, was the most outstanding on the night for Metalist, for the reason that he was able to save his team a lot of embarrassment at Tyneside. Statistic-wise, the Toons had it (having have more attempts and more chances). No players were sent off for this game. Newcastle almost owned the whole game, and I believe that if it wasn’t for Goryainov and some decisions from the linesman, we would’ve seen a few goals from Alan Pardew’s side!

Alan Pardew and Myron Markevych brought out the following squads:

Newcastle Starting XI:

Krul, Coloccini (c), Snaton, Yanga-Mbiwa, Taylor, Cabaye, Sissoko, Gutierrez, Obertan, Cisse, Tiote

Subs: Elliot, Simpson, Anita, Perch, Haidara, Marveaux, and Shola Ameobi

Metalist Kharkiv Starting XI:

Guryainov, Villagra, Torsiglieri, Fininho, Gueye, Edmar, Cleiton Xavier, Sosa (c), Torres, Cristaldo, Marlos

Subs: Disljenkovic, Berezovchuk, Shelayev, Blanco, Krasnopyorov, Jaja, and Willian

Final Score: Newcastle United 0-0 Metalist Kharkiv

Bayer 04 Leverkusen vs. SL Benfica

Bayer 04 Leverkusen vs. SL BenficaIt was a cold and snowy night at the BayArena in Leverkusen, but there was a very exciting match to heat things up for most Europa League fans! Although there weren’t as many goals as expected, this match was very captivating from beginning to end. The home side had more chances and seemed to threaten more, but it was the skill of Cardozo that saved the day for Benfica. Statistics-wise, Leverkusen looked much more stronger; but as we all know, football can be unpredictable!

Sascha Lewandowski and Jorge Jesus brought out the following squads:

Leverkusen Starting XI:

Leno, Schwabb, Wollscheid, Hegeler, Kadlec, Hosogai, Rolfes (c), Bender, Schurrle, Kiessling, Castro

Subs: Rensing, Friedrich, Reinartz, Fernandez, Milik, Boenisch, and Sam

Benfica Starting XI:

Artur, Luisao (c), Garay, Andre Almeida, Gaitan, Matic, Andre Gomes, John, Melgarejo, Cardozo, Urreta

Subs: Paulo Lopez, Maxi Pereira, Jardel, Rodrigo, Lima, Salvio, and Perez

Final Score: Bayer 04 Leverkusen 0-1 SL Benfica

Oscar Cardozo 61′

Written by Ange Marline

Europa League Round of 32 Preview: Part 2

Newcastle United (England) vs. Metalist Kharkiv (Ukraine)

Moussa SissokoI don’t think there’s anybody in the world right now who thinks Newcastle United’s new French connection is a waste! When you watch French football in England, there’s no doubt you’ll get satisfied! Having finished 2nd in their group behind leaders Bordeaux, Newcastle return to European action with an even stronger team and more reason to be taken seriously. Losing only once in their Europa League flight to Bordeaux, Alan Pardew’s men are sure to pose a threat to Metalist or any other team, should they advance to the late stages of the competition. As this is going to be the first time these two clubs meet, you just don’t know what to expect!

Myron Markevych’s men, on the other hand, finished top of group K, tied with Leverkusen. Together with Leverkusen, they challenged well for the title, and gave everything they could when they could. They finished in good form, with only one loss in their Europa League flight. No Taison? No problem!

Key Players

Super Moussa Sissoko will probably be one of the players to watch for Newcastle. Papiss Cisse, although not in his best form (with only one goal in the competition), as compared to, say, last season, will also be a threat for Myron Markevych & co. I don’t know if we’ll be seeing too much of Shola Ameobi now that there’s a new French wave in Tyneside, but his group-stage form had been great for Alan Pardew’s side so far! The world will also be looking at Gouffran to see what he has to offer, as well as a very strong Cabaye.

For Myron Markevych’s side, there will be Brazilian Cleiton Xavier, Sebastian Blanco, and Willian (no, not Willian Borges da Silva, but fellow countryman, Willian Gomes de Siqueira) to watch out for!


My prediction for the first leg of this game to be played at St. James’ Park would be narrow win for Kharkiv. For the second leg, I predict a comeback from Newcastle United and them to progress further into the tournament.

1st Leg: Newcastle United 1-2 Metalist Kharkiv
2nd Leg: Metalist Kharkiv 1-3 Newscastle United

Bayer 04 Leverkusen (Germany) vs. SL Benfica (Portugal)

Gonzalo CastroWhen Germany meets Portugal, expect a lot of drama and a lot of goals! With the first leg happening at the BayArena in Leverkusen, where, according to statistics, Leverkusen are yet to lose or concede at in European competitions this season, Bayer will be looking to keep it that way and prove to the whole of Europe and the rest of the world that they are worthy of being crowned second Champions of Europe. Having finished 2nd in their group but with the same points as Metalist, their strength has been felt and their threat is evident.

Benfica, being one of the biggest clubs in Portugal, are going to be looking to show that they mean business after having been eliminated from the UEFA Champions League. The 2 time UEFA Champions League winners dropped out of the Champions League at the expense of Scottish club Celtic, in a difficult group G. Jorge Jesus’ men managed to hold Spanish giants, FC Barcelona, and are very much praised for this accomplishment by their fans and fellow competitors. Put a club that’s held FC Barcelona in the Champions League in the Europa League and you have many of the clubs that were already in the Europa League consider them to be one of the “big boys!”

Key Players

Oscar Cardozo, Nemanja Matic will be closely watched by Leverkusen because of the skill they’ve both been able to show to the world. Class players, those ones! Luisao in defense will also be a pain to Leverkusen’s forwards! From Leverkusen, expect the likes of Gonzalo Castro to shine at the BayArena! Stefan Reinartz, Stefan Kießling, and Andre Schurrle could both also put Benfica to the test.


My prediction for the first leg of this match to be played at the BayArena in Leverkusen would be a win for the German side. My prediction for the second leg to be played in Lisbon would be a draw, and Leverkusen to progress to the round of 16.

1st Leg: Bayer 04 Leverkusen 3-2 SL Benfica
2nd Leg: SL Benfica 1-1 Bayer 04 Leverkusen

Written by Ange Marline