Turin - Benfica kept alive their dream of a first European trophy in 52 years
after a goalless draw with Juventus in Turin on Thursday helped the
newly-crowned Portuguese champions win their Europa League semi-final 2-1
Jorge Jesus's side will return to Turin on May 14 to take on Sevilla in
the final after restricting the Serie A leaders to a handful of chances,
despite having to play for 23 minutes of the second leg clash with 10
men after Enzo Perez was sent off.
"We managed the advantage we had from the first leg really well and we
deserve to be in the final because we were better than Juventus," said
Benfica coach Jesus.
The Portuguese side will be hoping to win their first continental title
since 1962's European Cup triumph, since when they have lost seven
finals, including last season's Europa League showpiece to Chelsea.
Juventus failed to take advantage of their territorial superiority in
the first half or the extra man after the sending-off and their exit is a
blow for Italy, whose teams have struggled on the continent in recent
Juventus coach Antonio Conte was annoyed with the away side's defensive
mindset and English referee Mark Clattenburg, who he felt should have
given a penalty against Luisao for appearing to block Fernando
Llorente's 65th-minute header with his hand.
"They're going through to the final, but I don't think they deserved it," said an irritated Conte.
"The only thing we missed was a goal. Over the course of the two legs we
conceded two shots on target. We tried but tonight but we didn't have
the run of the ball."
Benfica came roaring out of the blocks looking for the goal that would
have left their hosts a mountain to climb, with Juventus defender
Stephan Lichtsteiner blocking Rodrigo's stinging close-range strike in
the opening minute.
Juve slowly gained control as the first half wore on and Vidal was
unlucky not to give his side the lead seconds before the break when he
met Kwadwo Asamoah's fizzing cross with a header that was cleared off
the line by Luisao.
The away side gave Juve a scare two minutes after the break when Rodrigo
ballooned the ball over the bar from close range with the goal at his
Perez was sent off after receiving a second booking for a silly foul on
Arturo Vidal and his dismissal encouraged Juve to push forward in search
of the goal that would have sent them into the final.
The home fans were celebrating with nine minutes remaining when Osvaldo
tapped home Paul Pogba's headed knockdown, but their joy was
short-lived, with officials correctly ruling Frenchman Pogba offside.
Unused Juventus substitute Mirko Vucinic and Benfica's Lazar Markovic,
who had been taken off with minutes remaining, both received red cards
for an off-pitch altercation as the bad-tempered match wound to a close.
Benfica were reduced to nine men after Ezequiel Garay was stretchered
off during eight dramatic minutes of stoppage time and the Portuguese
side's keeper Jan Oblak made a fine save to keep out Martin Caceres's
"Tonight we saw that in football the best team doesn't always win," Juve defender Leonardo Bonucci said.