Europa League - Korkmaz header seals Fenerbahce win over Benfica

Europa League semi-final first-leg, Sükrü Saraçoglu - Fenerbahce 1 (Korkmaz 72) Benfica 0

Europa League - Korkmaz header seals Fenerbahce win over Benfica

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Fenerbahce's players celebrate Egemen Korkmaz's (R) goal against Benfica during their Europa League semi-final first leg soccer match at Sukru Saracoglu stadium in Istanbul April 25, 2013 (Reuters)

Egemen Korkmaz headed a controversial second-half winner as Fenerbahce secured a narrow 1-0 lead in their Europa League semi-final first-leg clash with Benfica in Turkey.

The defender powered home in the 72nd minute after Lorenzo Melgarejo had inadvertently nodded a left-wing corner back across the face of his own goal.

It was an incident that left the Portuguese side furious as the decisive moment came from a set piece that should have seen the away team awarded a goal kick.

Despite the fortune, the victory was no less than Fenerbahce deserved as they rattled the woodwork on no fewer than three occasions.

The Brazilian attacker Cristian was left in tears after crashing a 45th minute spot-kick against the post while Moussa Sow and Dirk Kuyt also saw efforts thwarted by the frame of the goal.

Benfica's best opportunity came courtesy of substitute Nicolas Gaitan whose well-struck curler thundered against the upright.

The scoreline means it is still all to play for ahead of next Thursday's second leg at the Estadio da Luz.

The Yellow Canaries came into the contest hoping to take a major step towards a maiden European final after reaching the last four for the first time in their history.

The quarter-final triumph over much-fancied Lazio had ignited a belief amongst the club's players and they hoped to keep their dream alive in front of a fervent crowd.

In a cagey opening they appeared anxious, though, and it was Benfica who carved out the first half-chance when Eduardo Salvio's stabbed effort was well smothered by Volkan Demirel in the home team's goal.

Next, Pablo Aimar curled a yard wide of target after a long throw had caused chaos in the Fenerbahce area.

The hosts had rarely threatened but sprung into life with three chances in as many minutes just after the 15-minute mark.

First, Sow touched Pierre Webo's right-wing cross wide at the near post before the Senegal star went even closer with a thumping header against the bar from Kuyt's searching ball. And then Korkmaz contrived to nod straight at Artur following another devilish cross from Cristian.

A flurry of yellow cards disrupted the flow of the game and it appeared to be edging towards the interval without any major goalmouth incidents, until right on 45 minutes when the Yellow Canaries were awarded a penalty.

Ola John was adjudged to have felled Gokhan Gonul, but the Benfica man was left breathing a huge sigh of relief, as Cristian stepped up and smashed his low spot-kick against the left-hand post.

It was a huge moment that saw the Brazilian leave the pitch in tears to cap a dramatic finale to the first period.

Cristian recovered to return as part of a vibrant Fenerbahce at the restart and it was his thunderous 20-yard strike that brought a fine save out of Artur.

The Benfica stopper then pushed aside a Raul Meireles drive before Kuyt's fine turn and shot came crashing back off the post.

It was all Fenerbahce, but they almost fell behind when Gaitan took a lick of paint off the far post with a delightful curler in a rare moment of attacking threat from the visitors.

At that point it looked like it could fizzle out into a goalless draw until a corner was awarded 18 minutes from time.

Webo had appeared to nod the ball out of play, but the referee gave a corner and Fenerbahce took full advantage when Korkmaz nodded in from a tight angle after a glaring error by Melgarejo gifted him a sight of goal.

The win keeps alive the Yellow Canaries' hopes of making a first ever European final and leaves Benfica needing a vastly improved display in the second leg if they are to book a place in Amsterdam.


Egemen Korkmaz - Fenerbahce. A solid display at the back was capped by the header that gives his side a priceless lead to take to Portugal for the second leg.


FENERBAHCE: Volkan Demirel 5, Korkmaz 7, Yobo 6, Ziegler 6, Gokhan Gonul 6, Topal 6, Meireles 5, Cristian 6, Sow 7, Kuyt 7, Webo 7. Subs: Ucan 5,Sahin 5, Krasic 4.

BENFICA: Artur 6, Pereira 5, Garay 5, Jardel 5, Aimar 4, Matic 6, Gomes 5, Cardozo 5, John 5, Salvio 5, Melgarejo 4. Subs: Rodrigo 5, Gaitan 6, Martins 5.


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