Chelsea and Benfica first qualified for the quarter-finals

Chelsea and Benfica first qualified for the quarter-finals

The door to the quarter-finals of the Football Champions League has opened for Chelsea and Benfica, the first two clubs to qualify after the return matches of the round of 16 played on Tuesday 7 March.

If the Portuguese had already passed a foot through the gap after their success (2-0) in the first leg on the lawn of Bruges, the English had to give a big push to make up for their defeat of the match go (0-1) to Dortmund.

Realistic Chelsea finally

“We showed character and we want to continue our journey,” warned Kai Havertz, the German striker of Chelsea, after the qualification of the Blues against Borussia Dortmund. Long clumsy in front of goal, the English club managed to reverse the situation after losing in the first leg to Germany.

Already in the Ruhr, the Londoners had created several good chances in vain, and this lack of success still punctuated most of the first period on Tuesday evening. From the 6e minute, Joao Felix forced Alexander Meyer – who was replacing Gregor Kobel in the German cages – to an exit in his feet, before Emre Can, with a stroller in the back, unbalanced Kai Havertz at the time of his strike, which found only the small outer net (8e). The latter found the post at the 28e and still saw, ten minutes later, his goal canceled for an offside by Raheem Sterling.

Chelsea striker Kai Havertz hits a penalty on the post, before having a chance to take it away, against Dortmund, London, March 7, 2023.

After two other opportunities, signed Kalidou Koulibaly and Felix, the Blues ended up breaking through the opposing lock; luck finally smiled on them with two favorable counterattacks in the penalty area for Sterling who then catapulted the ball into the back of the net (1-0, 43e).

On returning from the locker room, Chelsea went on the attack again and obtained a penalty in the first seconds for an opposing hand, after viewing the images by the referee on the edge of the field. Havertz first sent him to the post on his right but VAR gave him away because several players, including Germans, had entered the box. With notable strength of character, Havertz withdrew the penalty almost exactly from the same place but this time inside (2-0, 53e).

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Dortmund will be able to regret the two beautiful parades of Kepa on a free kick from Marco Reus at twenty meters (17e) and a strike from Marius Wolf (65e), or the too uncrossed cover of Jude Bellingham (58e).

For the Blues, this victory and this qualification offer a breath of fresh air in a difficult season, and will above all give some time to their coach, Graham Potter, who would have been on an ejection seat in the event of elimination.

“It’s a big competition and it’s the last trophy you can win,” recalled Kai Havertz, whose club trail in tenth place in the league.

Benfica ruthlessly

In the other match, Benfica made short work of Bruges, corrected (5-1) after having already been beaten (2-0) at home. Far from being among the leaders of the competition, the Lisboètes continue their good course when they had already managed to finish at the top of the classification of their group, in front of PSG and Juventus Turin, without conceding a single defeat.

Benfica's Portuguese midfielder, Joao Mario, celebrates his team's fourth goal, against Brugge, on March 7, 2023, in Lisbon.

Tuesday evening in Lisbon, in a packed Luz stadium, it was the talent of the trio formed by Joao Mario, Rafa Silva and especially Gonçalo Ramos, who unlocked the game. Joao Mario, to whom the VAR had denied a goal from a backheel for offside at the very start of the game, launched a counter attack led by Gonçalo Ramos and concluded by Rafa Silva (1-0, 38e). Just before the break, Ramos doubled the lead by getting rid of four defenders to place an impeccable cross shot from the right (2-0, 45e + 2).

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In the second period, the 21-year-old striker widened the gap with a new precise shot in the middle of the penalty area (3-0, 57e). If he had struck the spirits at the 2022 World Cup by signing a hat-trick against Switzerland after relegating Cristiano Ronaldo to the bench of the Portugal team, Ramos had so far not shown in the Champions League. the finishing qualities that make him the top scorer in the Lusitanian championship at this stage.

Joao Mario, from the penalty spot (4-0, 71e), and substitute David Neres (5-0, 77e) further increased the score.

Opposite, Bruges saved the honor at the very end of the match with a superb strike from outside the left of Bjorn Meijer which ended up in the top corner (5-1, 87e). In the end, the “blauw en zwart” (the blues and blacks) will have paid the price for their lack of experience because it was the first time that the club had reached this level of competition in ten appearances.

The Eagles join the European top 8 for the second season in a row. They fell in midair last year against Liverpool, future finalist of the event.

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On Wednesday, Bayern welcomes PSG, after winning 1-0 in Paris in the first leg, and Tottenham receives Milan. The Italians also won 1-0 in the first leg.

The World with AFP

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