The first leg of the Europa League semifinal gave us a Spanish derby in which Sevilla beat Valencia 2-0 at home, giving them a big advantage and bringing them closer to the final, while an excellent match in Lisbon gave Benfica a dramatic 2-1 victory over Juventus.
At the Estadio da Luz, two teams with four European Cups gathered to try and pave the initial way towards the final in Turin. A brilliant start from Benfica stunned Juventus, as Ezequiel Garay scored the opening goal off a corner in the second minute. However, instead of Benfica pressing for more than 10 minutes, we saw Juventus as the dominant and better side for most of the match, deserving more than a minimal loss.
While the first half didn’t produce any chances in favor of Juventus, the second half was completely different, as the wings with Asamoah and Lichtsteiner became a lot more functional and dangerous. Benfica focused on stopping Andrea Pirlo, but had to give up on something. Asamoah’s work on the left produced the equalizing goal, finding Carlos Tevez who made a nice little feign before scoring in the one on one, his first goal in Europe this season.
Benfica got the winner despite the pressure from Juventus at the late stages of the match. Fantastic passing down the left found Lima, the team’s top scorer in the league, arriving umarked into the box, shooting it into the high net and giving Benfica a slight advantage for next week, although they were lucky to come away with the win after some incredible misses from Claudio Marchisio and Giorgio Chiellini.
The second match wasn’t as interesting or high in quality and tension. Stéphane M’Bia with a tricky (or lucky) little heel, possibly offside, scored the opening goal in the 33rd minute, followed by a wonderful counter attack finished off by the red hot Carlos Bacca.
Valencia had a few chances – one from Javi Fuego at the beginning of the match, and another late in the game with Jonas missing from close range. But there was on doubt who was the better team, and who looks like the more fitting side to make it into the Europa League final.