Chelsea book Barcelona date
Chelsea will face Barcelona in the semi-finals of the Champions League after eliminating Benfica with a 3-1 aggregate win.
By Peter Fraser - Follow me on twitter @SkySportsPeteF
Last Updated: 04/04/12 11:10pm
It is strangely just like the old days at Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League - Frank Lampard scoring, Roman Abramovich in attendance and thoughts turning to epic showdowns with Barcelona.
The season may not have gone entirely to plan at Stamford Bridge, but, after Benfica were on Wednesday night eliminated from Europe's quarter-finals, there will be few complaints, despite an unconvincing performance.
From the lows of Andre Villas-Boas' reign, Chelsea, under the interim management of first-team coach Roberto Di Matteo, are looking forward to renewing their blockbuster rivalry with Barcelona.
The two teams, the latter of which are the current defending kings of Europe, met an incredible 10 times during the Noughties in what were some classic Champions League encounters and this season's semi-finals will now be the stage for a reunion.
In front of the watching club owner Abramovich, who will not be ignoring the work of Di Matteo as he continues to dream of conquering the continent, Lampard's first-half penalty in West London helped earn a 3-1 aggregate win over Benfica, but it was far from an easy ride for Chelsea.
Jorge Jesus' visitors, inspired by the excellent Pablo Aimar, had posed much more of a threat than in the first leg in Lisbon and they set up a nervy final six minutes through Javi Garcia as their hosts huffed and puffed.
But Raul Meireles' superb, injury-time, counter-attack goal made sure Benfica were made to regret Maxi Pereira's red card before half-time.
Chelsea did have controversial and card-happy referee Damir Skomina and goalkeeper Petr Cech to thank in part for the win, and Barcelona will not be quaking after seeing Benfica dominate periods of the match despite being down to 10 men.
However, Di Matteo and his club can respond with the fact they qualified and got the job done having turned in arguably one of their worst performances under the Italian.
After winning 1-0 in Lisbon last week, Chelsea's task looked all more simple after captain Luisao and Jardel were ruled out for the visitors, who were forced to play Javi Garcia and Emerson as makeshift centre-backs.
But despite Di Matteo warning of complacency, Chelsea made the most sluggish of starts and needed desperate blocks from Lampard and John Terry to keep their opponents at bay.
They finally got going and Joan Capdevila had to put his own body on the line after an eighth-minute corner fell to David Luiz, who had shaken off an ankle injury to start.
Terry vented his fury at more slack Chelsea play as Benfica continued to perform like the side that had caused Manchester United so many problems in the group stage.
But after Oscar Cardozo was booked for going through the back of Luiz, Chelsea were gifted a penalty midway through the half.
Ashley Cole beat Garcia to a long ball forward and went down after a legal-looking shoulder challenge from the Benfica man, Skomina immediately pointing to the spot and booking Perreira and Bruno Cesar for protesting.
Artur got a hand to Lampard's penalty, but could not keep it out.
Pablo Aimar joined Cardozo in the book before the latter almost equalised on the half-hour mark, Terry clearing his half-volley off the line after a superbly-worked free-kick routine.
Branislav Ivanovic was the latest player cautioned for tripping Nicolas Gaitan, and when Skomina got his yellow card out again for Pereira's foul on John Obi Mikel, a red followed.
Ramires incredibly became the seventh player cautioned before the end of the first half, which finished with Benfica boss Jesus almost confronting the referee on the pitch.
The visitors were predictably fired up at the start of the second half and only a superb Cech save from Cardozo's first-time shot kept Chelsea ahead.
It should have been 2-0 in the 50th minute when Ramires somehow let Salomon Kalou's cross run under his foot with an empty net gaping.
Emerson got a block on Torres' finish after being bamboozled by the rejuvenated striker, who then flicked a rebound wide after Artur saved from Mata.
Cardozo was withdrawn for Nelson Oliveira, with Terry soon following for Gary Cahill and Gaitan for Yannick Djalo.
Djalo soon had what looked a goalbound shot blocked behind, while Kalou shot straight at Artur on the break as an increasingly-irate Jesus was ordered to calm down by Skomina.
The Benfica fans, who were ironically chanting the name of UEFA president Michel Platini, were almost silenced when Mata drilled wide.
Djalo nodded over after Cesar was replaced by Rodrigo, Kalou fired another shot wide and Oliveira shot straight at Cech.
Mikel was the first player booked in the second half after tripping Rodrigo before Raul Meireles came on for Mata.
Cech came to the rescue again to tip Djalo's header behind, but was completely powerless to prevent a completely unmarked Garcia heading in Aimar's corner.Benfica poured forward and Oliveira wasted a great chance to dump Chelsea out before Didier Drogba came on for Torres to help see the game out, which Di Matteo's men did in stoppage-time when Meireles ran 40 yards and drilled home.
|1||1st Half Goals||0|
|4||Shots on Target||9|
|9||Shots off Target||9|
|45.4||1st Half Poss.||54.6|
|53.8||2nd Half Poss.||46.2|