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Benfica beats Juventus 2-1 in Europa League semis

April 24, 2014

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Substitute Lima scored six minutes from the end to give Benfica a 2-1 win over Juventus in the Europa League first-leg semifinals on Thursday.

Benfica will take a slender advantage over the Serie A leader to next week’s return leg in Turin.

Lima received a pass inside the area and fired into the top corner, restoring Benfica’s lead after Carlos Tevez’s 72nd-minute equalizer.

Central defender Ezequiel Garay put Benfica ahead in the second minute with a header from a corner which Gianluigi Buffon, diving low to his left, reached with both hands but couldn’t keep out.

Sevilla beat Valencia 2-0 in the other all-Spanish semifinal.

Juventus is pursuing its first continental trophy in 17 years. The once dominant Turin club is making its first appearance in the final four of a European competition since finishing runner-up in the 2003 Champions League. This year’s final will be at its home stadium.

“Our victory doesn’t decide anything, it’s still wide open, but at least we go to Turin with a lead,” Benfica coach Jorge Jesus said.

Portuguese champion Benfica, which lost in the Europa League final to Chelsea last year and is unbeaten in its last 12 European home games, produced a spell of early pressure, and Miralem Sulejmani was poised to extend the Lisbon club’s lead in the 11th but skewed his shot from the left. Then Lazar Markovic let the ball roll too far when he was set up for a shot on the other flank.

It was one-way traffic as Benfica attacked wide on the wings to stretch its visitor’s three-man backline, while Juventus was tame going forward.

The home defense had the measure of Tevez and Mirko Vucinic, who didn’t seriously threaten until Tevez broke through on the half hour but was closed down before he could shoot.

Juventus came out more assertive for the second half, and Paul Pogba’s 54th-minute header had Artur leaping to his right for an acrobatic save to prevent an equalizer.

“Juventus is hard to stop. In the first half we managed to keep them at bay but in the second half they caused us difficulties as some of our players started to get tired,” Jesus said.

Brazilian striker Lima came on in the 62nd to revive Benfica’s fading challenge and soon made a difference.

Marchisio and Giorgio Chiellini both squandered chances to level the score in the final minutes.

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