Benfica advanced to their second consecutive UEFA Europa League final following a scoreless draw at Juventus on Thursday evening in the second leg of their semi-final tie.
After winning the first leg 2-1 last week in Lisbon, Benfica defended resolutely in Turin, overcoming the second-half dismissal of Enzo Perez for a second bookable offence. Juventus, who had hoped to play the final in their home stadium, had a goal ruled out in the 81st minute for offside.
Both sides also had one player sent off following a touchline dispute in the closing moments.
Benfica will return to Turin for the showpiece event on May 14 to face Sevilla, who eliminated Spanish rivals Valencia with a dramatic away goal in second-half stoppage time. For Jorge Jesus' side, the final will serve as a chance both to write history and erase some of the club's most painful memories.
Having already clinched the Liga Sagres title, Benfica will have a chance to win even more silverware in the Portuguese Cup final, which is set for May 18. And with a win in the Europa League final, Benfica would end a run of seven straight losses in European finals.
Needing a goal to keep their hopes alive, Juventus set out to attack in the first half, creating numerous chances to level the tie on aggregate. The hosts came close to scoring an opener in the eighth minute as Andrea Pirlo lashed a high shot on target, but Benfica goalkeeper Jan Oblak tipped over.
Carlos Tevez volleyed over the bar in 24th minute following Fernando Llorente's flicked header and Stephan Lichtsteiner had a low shot saved five minutes later. As half-time neared, Pirlo shot wide from distance and Leonardo Bonucci flashed a header across the face of goal from a free-kick. Then, in stoppage time, Arturo Vidal saw his bouncing header cleared off the line by Luisao.
After dominating most of the first half, Juventus nearly went behind early in the second. Guilherme Siqueira sent a long throw-in into the box, the ball eventually falling to an unmarked Rodrigo in the middle. With plenty of time to pick his spot, Rodrigo took a touch before shooting over the bar.
Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon had to be alert in the 56th minute, coming off his line to smother a pass into the box ahead of the onrushing Rodrigo. At the other end, Pirlo forced Jan Oblak into a save with a dipping free-kick on the right.
Benfica went down to 10 men in the 67th minute, when Perez received his second booking—and subsequent red card—for a foul on Vidal. Fourteen minutes later, Juventus had Pablo Dani Osvaldo's goal ruled out for offside.
The match turned ugly in the closing moments, when both teams' benches were involved in a touchline disturbance. After order was restored, referee Mark Clattenburg sent off Juventus' Mirko Vucinic, an unused substitute and Benfica's Lazar Markovic, who had been replaced in the second half.
Juventus' Martin Caceres then forced save in the sixth minute of stoppage time with a low header from a corner, but Benfica managed to hold on until the final whistle to book another trip to the Europa League final.
|Juventus Player Ratings|
|Sebastian Giovinco (for Bonucci, 73')||N/A||5|
|Pablo Daniel Osvaldo (for Llorente, 78')||N/A||5|
|Claudio Marchisio (for Vidal, 79')||N/A||6|
|Benfica Player Ratings|
|Andre Almeida (for Rodrigo, 69')||N/A||6|
|Eduardo Salvio (for Gaitan, 77')||N/A||6|
|Miralem Sulejmani (for Markovic, 86')||N/A||6|
Benfica's Guilherme Siqueira said his side "deserved" to advance. Speaking to Sky Sport Italia (via Football Italia), Siqueira said:
Benfica know our strengths, we try to defend strong and then go on the counter with four or five players. What we did in Lisbon gave us the confidence to come here and play. Juve are a spectacular side, but Benfica were warriors tonight and this qualification was more than deserved.
Juventus manager Antonio Conte disagreed, telling Sky Sport Italia (via Football Italia) "the team that least deserved it went through. He added:
It’s a shame, as with two shots on target over two legs Benfica went through. Over the two games Juventus certainly deserved to go through.
I think Juventus gave all they had. It is an exciting, but also very exhausting season, because for the first time we’ve reached the final stages of European competition.
Juventus return to Seria A on Monday with a match at home to Atalanta. A victory would clinch the Bianconeri's third straight league title.
Portuguese Liga Sagres champions Benfica host Vitoria de Setubal on Sunday.
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