Madrid and Chelsea both claim away wins
- Real Madrid and Chelsea edge closer to the Champions League semifinals with away wins
- Karim Benzema scores twice as Real Madrid win 3-0 at Cypriot side APOEL Nicosia
- A late goal from Salomon Kalou is enough for Chelsea to claim a vital victory at Benfica
(CNN) — Karim Benzema scored twice as Real Madrid won 3-0 at APOEL Nicosia to all but secure their place in the Champions League semifinals.
And Jose Mourinho’s side could well be joined in the last four by his former side Chelsea, who claimed a vital 1-0 success at Benfica courtesy of Salomon Kalou’s last strike.
APOEL have been the fairytale story of this season’s Champions League, entering the competition at the qualification stage they have continued to surprise more illustrious opponents to become the first Cypriot side to reach the last quarterfinal stage.
But, against the Spanish league leaders, APOEL always looked second best, failing to register a single shot on target in the whole of the 90 minutes, while conceding a remarkable 72% possession to their opponents.
However, despite their dominance, Real needed three goals in the final 15 minutes to confirm their superiority.
And it was French international Benzema who finally broke the deadlock, heading home a cross from substitute Kaka.
Kaka himself added the second goal when slotting home a Marcelo pass, while Benzema secured a comfortable victory in the final minute when turning home Mesut Ozil’s cross.
Madrid now appear certainties to face either Bayern Munich or Marseille in the semifinals.
Meanwhile, caretaker manager Roberto Di Matteo continues to turn Chelsea’s fortunes around, following the dismissal of previous coach Andre Villas Boas, as the London club secured a superb 1-0 victory at Benfica.
Villas Boas had been criticized for not using Chelsea’s experienced older players enough during his tenure at Stamford Bridge.
But his former assistant di Matteo chose to leave top stars like Didier Drogba, Michael Essien and Frank Lampard on the bench — and his decision was vindicated with Chelsea’s first away win in Europe this season.
A tight match was settled 15 minutes from time when Ivory Coast international Kalou jabbed home Fernando Torres’ cross from close range as Benfica slumped to a rare home defeat.
Chelsea now only need a draw to seal in the return leg at home to secure a last four showdown with either defending champions Barcelona or AC Milan.