A 75th-minute goal on the counter-attack from Salomon Kalou gave Chelsea a huge advantage heading into next week’s return leg at Stamford Bridge as Di Matteo‘s risky selection gamble paid handsome dividends.After watching Chelsea labour to a 0-0 draw at Tottenham last weekend, Di Matteo took the brave decision to omit Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and Michael Essien from his starting line-up at the Stadium of Light. It was the sort of decision that could have gone horribly wrong but instead Di Matteo was left to reflect on Chelsea’s best away performance of the season. However the interim coach insisted Chelsea would take nothing for granted against a Benfica side who have already helped to eliminate Manchester United from Europe this season.
Match Highlights Here:
“He gave me my chance to play and prove myself on the pitch and I’m happy to play and give everything I can.” -Kalou
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Chelsea were going to go an entire half without testing the Benfica goal before Meireles finally found his range five minutes before the break. Benfica came out for the second half with a far greater sense of purpose and threatened the Chelsea goal twice in the opening five minutes. Only a desperate goal-line clearance from David Luiz prevented a Benfica goal on 48 minutes, the Brazilian defender blocking Oscar Cardozo’s thumping shot from the edge of the area. Chelsea should have hit the front after 53rd minutes, only for Kalou to head wastefully over the bar from Torres fine cross. It was a poor miss by Kalou. Juan Mata had also gone close for Chelsea on the hour when he rounded keeper Artur Moraes but struck the post from an acute angle. But with 15 minutes to go Chelsea struck with a goal from nothing. Benfica’s defense finally gave way as Ramires tapdanced down the wing, injuring himself in the process as he dodged tackles before getting the ball to Fernando Torres who dribbled into the right side of the box, setting up Solomon Kalou for a tap-in to give Chelsea their goal. Benfica never recovered their rhythm and Chelsea held on as the Portuguese side were beaten at home in Europe for the first time this season.
Meanwhile, Torres was showing flashes of form, without any end product. Superb control on the chest ended with a swivelled effort flying well over the bar; a strong run led only to him cutting back twice before shooting past the far post. Di Matteo said that the Portuguese connections of former Benfica duo David Luiz and Ramires, along with Paulo Ferreira and Raul Meireles had been crucial. “One of the reasons I selected David Luiz, Meireles, Ramires and Ferreira is because they know Benfica very well, their players and the atmosphere. They’ve had that experience,” he said.
This win puts Chelsea firmly on course to reach their 6th Champions League semi-final in 9 seasons heading into the return leg at Stamford Bridge next week.
“There is still another match in London. Our players have not given up yet and we leave here feeling we are a good team.” -De Matteo
1.Chelsea’s Team Work is Improving:
They worked together as a unit with each player contributing immensely to the result. They were tactically sound, as the defensive lineup did not push up but allowed for swift counter-attacking football.
2.David Luiz – “The Star, The Exceptional”
Luiz was simply exceptional today and looked defensively solid. No calamitous nature that we are used to seeing from him was observed today. He also made some great forward dashes, but the highlight was his goal-line clearance in the 48th minute. Oscar Cardoza had drilled the ball, and it looked as if Chelsea were going to concede, only for Luiz to intervene at the vital moment.
3.Fernando Torres Shines Yet Again!!
He was highly industrious today and looked like a potent goalscoring threat all night long. It did look like his confidence has returned. Torres also tracked back and won possession for his team, laid great passes all around and insightful crosses. He did the hard work for the lone goal that Chelsea finally managed to achieve through his striking partner- Salomon Kalou.
- Benfica v Chelsea – live! – The Guardian (guardian.co.uk)
- Match Reports: Benfica 0-1 Chelsea (clubcall.com)
- Salomon Kalou rewards Roberto Di Matteo’s brave Chelsea selection | Richard Williams (guardian.co.uk)
- Di Matteo: we aren’t through (guardian.co.uk)