The first legs of the 2013-14 Europa League semi-finals saw both home teams cruising to victory.
Juventus managed an away goal while losing to Benfica 2-1 at Estadio da Luz to keep the return leg supremely interesting. Playing at Estadio Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuan, Valencia was not as fortunate. Sevilla blanked them, 2-0.
The second leg for both matches will be played on May 1.
Have a look at the scores in table form, and then we'll look back at the action.
|Semifinals First-Leg Scores|
Benfica 2-1 Juventus
Benfica got a late goal from substitute Lima to break a 1-1 tie in the 84th minute. The win gives gives the newly crowned Portuguese champions the narrowest of advantages heading into next week's second leg in Italy.
Early on, it didn't look like Benfica would need such dramatics. Ezequiel Garay sent the home fans wild with a strike in just the third minute. Garay netted a header off of Miralem Sulejmani's corner to give Benfica some production for a strong start.
Despite a couple of decent looks for each team, that was all of the scoring for the first half. Benfica were the clear aggressors and looked en route to a victory. Juventus were better throughout the second, and the Serie A leaders tied the match up in the 73rd minute.
Carlos Tevez ended a European goal drought that stretched back to 2009 when he netted Kwadwo Asamoah's cross in the 73rd minute.
Juve were beginning to take control by that point, but they couldn't hold the draw.
Lima was able to find some space and Enzo Perez found him with a pass. The result was the game-winner:
Although that goal hands Juve a slight edge, Benfica will have a bit of confidence. The Portuguese side struggled to get past the defensive wall put up by Benfica as the match progressed. Benfica won 52 percent of possession and fired off just two less on-target shots at 5-7.
That said, Benfica are not without their own confidence, and manager Jorge Jesus firmly believes his side should have won by more. Football-Italia.net pass along this Jesus quote: "We were justly winners. We could’ve scored more goals, in fact. The referee did not give us a clear penalty on Enzo Perez.”
Benfica were last season's runners-up in the competition, and they will be looking to get back to the final with a strong home effort in the return leg. Although, they will have to do so with midfielder Andre Gomes set to miss the match after picking up a yellow card in the first half.
Sevilla 2-0 Valencia
Sevilla have to like their position of taking a two-goal advantage into Mestalla next week. They only will have to score one goal to ensure that Valencia has to beat them by three to advance.
After taking five more on-target shots at 8-3 than Valencia on Thursday, Sevilla are a strong favorite.
Despite Sevilla looking to keep the pressure on for this match by devoting numbers forward, all of the scoring came in a three-minute span in the first half. Stephane Mbia netted the match's first goal in the 33rd minute and Carlos Bacca added the second and final goal in the 36th minute.
Mbia's was a nifty backheel after a free kick. BR UK praised the effort:
Possession was even in this match and Valencia had eight total shots. The attack was solid for Valencia, but they couldn't take advantage of their opportunities.
They are certainly not without hope. The problem is the deficit and their defense. It is difficult to see Valencia blanking Sevilla and even harder to see them winning by three or more.
Sevilla look strong and have been on a roll. They have won seven of their last eight matches to go along with this victory.
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