Europa League - Cardozo brace sends Benfica to Amsterdam

Europa League semi-final second-leg, Estadio da Luz - Benfica 3 (Gaitan 9, Cardozo 35, 66) Fenerbahce 1 (Kuyt pen 23) - (Benfica win 3-2 on aggregate)

Football - Benfica's Europa League results

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Oscar Cardozo struck a magnificent brace as Benfica surged into the Europa League final courtesy of a 3-1 victory over Fenerbahce in Portugal.

The Paraguayan hot-shot struck either side of the interval to turn the tie around after Dirk Kuyt's penalty had cancelled out Nicolas Gaitan's superb opener.

It means the Eagles are through to a first European final since 1990 thanks to a rollercoaster 3-2 success on aggregate.

Jorge Jesus's men will now face Chelsea in a showpiece occasion at the Amsterdam Arena on May 15.

For Fenerbahce the game represented an opportunity to reach an inaugural continental final, while Benfica were hoping to stay on course for their first European success since 1962.

The Yellow Canaries held a narrow advantage from the first leg but Jesus's side were boasting a 19-match unbeaten run on home turf and made a bright start to the proceedings.

Indeed, the Turkish giants had no answer to the incessant waves of early pressure and it was no surprise when Benfica snatched the lead on nine minutes.

Lima broke the offside trap on the right flank and raced into the area before cutting the ball back for Gaitan to flick a wonderful effort in off the far post via the outside of his foot.

The tie was all square and the momentum was very much with the Eagles as Cardozo went close to a second with a firm header from Maxi Pereira's right-wing cross.

The visitors had barely set foot inside the Benfica half but earned a reprieve on 23 minutes when Ezequiel Garay was adjudged to have handled Kuyt's flick on.

The referee pointed to the spot and up stepped the Dutchman to coolly fire his team level with a low shot into the corner.

Moussa Sow then spurned a great chance on the counter attack when he toe-poked wide of the near post before the hosts restored their advantage just past the half hour.

A quick free-kick found Cardozo in space on the edge of the area. The Paraguayan showed neat feet to turn his marker and then fired a low shot into the far corner to spark delirium inside the Estadio da Luz.

The hosts continued to press as the half came to a close but it was the Yellow Canaries who should have made it level on the night when Kuyt placed a shot into the side netting after Caner Erkin's low ball across the six-yard box had found him unmarked at the back post.

Benfica continued to dominate following the break and after Cardozo went close with a 25-yarder, they got the all-important third goal 24 minutes from time.

And it was no surprise that Cardozo was the hero, as the Paraguay striker latched onto Luisao's miss-hit shot from a long-throw to coolly steer home and net his 30th of the season.

The goal put Benfica ahead for the first time in the tie and they continued to carve out the better openings as Fenerbahce tried desperately to rally late on.

The Turkish side had been non-existent as an attacking force but almost snatched it in the dying moments when substitute Miroslav Stoch forced a smart save out of Artur at his near post.


Oscar Cardozo (Benfica) - A superb all-round display from the striker who netted two goals when it really mattered to book Benfica's place in the final.


BENFICA: Artur 6, Pereira 6, Garay 6, Luisao 6, Andre Almeida 6, Matic 6, Gaitan 7, Perez 6, Cardozo 8, Lima 7, Salvio 7. Subs: Urreta 5, Roderick 5.

FENERBAHCE: Volkan Demirel 6, Korkmaz 6, Yobo 6, Ziegler 6, Selcuk Sahin 6, Salih Ucan 5, Gokhan Gonul 6, Cristian 6, Sow 6, Kuyt 7, Caner Erkin 6. Subs: Topuz 5, Stoch 5, Irtegun 6.


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