Benfica book a continental final after wait of 23 years
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Paraguay striker Oscar Cardozo's well-taken double fired Benfica into a Europa League final with Chelsea after they beat Fenerbahce 3-1 in Lisbon to win their semi-final 3-2 on aggregate.
Top scorer Cardozo, who signed a new deal in January and has a 60 million euros buyout clause in his contract, proved too hot to handle after Dirk Kuyt's away goal had given Fenerbahce the upper hand.
Benfica, last in a continental final in 1990 when the Portuguese lost to AC Milan in the European Cup showpiece, took just nine minutes to cancel out Fenerbahce's 1-0 lead from the first leg when Nicolas Gaitan clipped in Lima's low cross.
The hosts were then stunned when Kuyt levelled midway through the half from the penalty spot after Ezequiel Garay handled, meaning Benfica needed to score at least twice more.
Cardozo's fine left-foot finish restored Benfica's lead on 35 minutes in a breathless first half and his decisive strike in the 66th with another crisp shot from the box.
The final is in Amsterdam on May 15 when Benfica will have the chance to win their first European trophy since lifting the second of their successive European Cups in 1962. "This is historic given the last time Benfica got to a European final and we get there with all justice," Benfica coach Jorge Jesus said.
In search of the Treble
Benfica, chasing a memorable treble consisting of a Portuguese league and cup double and the Europa League, were rewarded for their positive start when Gaitan, who was rested for the first leg, deftly finished with the outside of his left foot.
Fenerbahce had struggled to stem the early onslaught but got an unexpected gift when the ball struck Garay's arm as he tried to clear and Kuyt coolly converted from the spot. Benfica were back in front 10 minutes before the break when a quickly taken free kick found Cardozo, who fired past Volkan Demirel. Cardozo put Benfica in control when Lusiao's shot fell into his path and the striker fired.
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