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Dublin: 11°C Wednesday 12 May 2021


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As always, we want to hear your views… particularly about tonight’s game in Lisbon. Get in contact in the usual ways… email, find us Facebook or tweet @thescore_ie.

Full-time: Benfica 0 Chelsea 1

Full-time: APOEL 0 Real Madrid 3

Fianna Fáil’s environment spokesman Niall Collins will get to speak for around three minutes, and follows Micheál Martin’s thread that FF were not the only party implicated in the report. People in glass houses, he says…

So let’s do this! Think of yourself as bemused-looking Fernando Torres and I’m Roberto di Matteo, offering you an unwelcome bear hug of a liveblog. Chelsea’s Premier League stars are on the pitch and warming up ahead of kick off in Lisbon. So too are Jeff Stelling and his three wise men of Souness, Jamie Redknapp and… your next England manager Glen Hoddle. It’s gonna be a long night.

Roberto di Matteo has handed us his team-sheet. Nice one, Bobbie. Here they are:

Benfica: Artur Moraes, Maxi Pereira, Luisao, Jardel, Emerson, Aimar, Javi Garcia, Bruno Cesar, Witsel, Gaitan, Cardozo. Subs: Eduardo, Nolito, Nelson Oliveira, Rodrigo Moreno, Matic, Miguel Vitor, Saviola.

Chelsea: Cech, Ferreira, Luiz, Terry, Cole, Ramires, Meireles, Mata, Mikel, Kalou, Torres. Subs: Turnbull, Essien, Lampard, Drogba, Bosingwa, Sturridge, Cahill.

Referee: Paolo Tagliavento (Italy)

Di Matteo: “I wanted to freshen up the team and give the team some fresh energy. And also put players in that know Benfica, know the stadium and know what to expect here.” Come on down, Playstation’s David Luiz. The Chelsea manager admits to Jeff Shreeves that an away goal is the Blues’ realistic target tonight.

The eagle has landed at the Stadium of Light. After one of the most idiosyncratic pre-game rituals in soccer — Benfica’s bird of prey swooping towards the pitch — we’re almost ready to go. The players are in the tunnel.

And we’re up and running.

Paulo Ferreira is on the pitch and he almost announced himself with an early OG there. The ball zipped across the face of goal and the Portuguese swung wildly at it at the back post. Deliberately or not — and I’m thinking, not — he missed it completely and Cech swept up.

David Luiz is in the spotlight a little tonight, having left the Stadium of Light a little over a year ago. After an earlier one-on-one with Shreeves, Sky co-commentator has now said that the Brazilian has improved ‘in the past two in three weeks’. Neville, of course, is the pundit that tagged Luiz with the ‘Playstation’ jibe early on this season. Ten minutes in, he looks comfortable here so far tonight.

Ramires is looking Chelsea’s brightest performer so far. He beat his marker for pace and skill twice already earning a corner and, more importantly,  ”a psychological advantage” according to the increasingly excellent Neville. As I type, the home side have has the first sight of goal; Bruno Cesar played a diagonal ball into the box for Cardozo, the Paraguayan took it on his chest and tried to scissors it past Cech… but it flew wide of the post.

Of the 26,000 or so Facebook pals we have here, only seven of you gave us your predictions. That either says something about this match-up or us. Here they are, nevertheless.

How do you reckon it’ll end? Let us know in the comment section below. In the meantime, Cardozo has had another sight of Petr Cech’s eyes – a whipped-in cross by Gaitan was met by the striker, but his header flew over.

“That is Fernando Torres,” sigh Neville, as the Spaniard twists and turns into a good position, like the days of old. Again however, he leans back and sends the ball wide and over. The Blues are quite happy to sit and frustrate their hosts, as we approach the interval. What’s the score in the other game you ask? 0-0 there too. As I type, Meireles unleashes a daisy-cutter that has to be pushed behind.

It’s half-time, friends. I’m going to get the kettle on. I suggest you do the same.

So, as Whitesnake almost sang: here we go again in the Estadio de la Luz. Hoddle said he’s been underwhelmed by the hosts so farwhile RedNev reckons Chelsea have turned in an excellent away performance so far. I got my tea too, in case you were wondering.

Off the line! Meireles fails to clear a cross and Cordozo unleashes a vicious drive goalwards which old boy Luiz blocks under bar. There’s massive shouts for handball but the defender kept them at his side. That’s a let off as they used to say in Championship Manager.

Geoff Shreeves reports that Raul Meireles may have reacted to home supporters’ barracking during the first half with a gesture of his own. The Sky sideline reporter says he asked UEFA officials at half-time and they knew nothing about it so the ex-Porto man ‘may have got lucky’. Yes, Geoff. But you just told them.

Off the post! A long ball from Cech is missed by Jardel and Mata gets in behind, he nips it past the keeper Artur Moraes but the angle is tight and he knocks it off the post. One hour in now and this one is there to be won.

Ooof! Witsel picks the ball up inside the Chelsea half, drives forward and unleashes a shot on goal which John Terry half-blocks. Petr Cech looks worried as he pedals backwards but the ball lands in the top of the netting. There’s a goal a coming, I reckon.

Good save from Cech! Gaitan floats in a cross which Jardel meets crisply with his head but the Blues ‘keeper gets it away. It’s all very open now. Frank Lampard is trotting on now for a 20-odd minute cameo to a chorus of boos; for once, however, the jibes are for the player coming off — ex Porto favourite, Raul Meireles.

It’s STILL scoreless in Cyprus too, by the way. That’s some good going by APOEL on their biggest night.

GOAL! Benfica 0 Chelsea 1 Kalou 73′

So Chelsea are in the driving seat and their fans are in full voice high in the stands in Lisbon. So how did we get here? Well, all thanks to Fernando Torres really; the Spaniard drove down the right and chipped an inviting ball square to Kalou. He finished neatly. Neville then has a Brian Lenihan Sr moment as he seems to turn to face the camera and address Kalou directly: “You deserve that Solomon Kalou, for all the work you’ve done tonight.”

There’s 88 minutes on the clock and things are vewy, vewy quiet in the Stadium of Light right about now.

It’s all over bar the shouting in the other game. An up-and-coming Madridista called Kaka scored the second before Benzema added a third. We’re in added time in Portugal.

Benfica should have scored an equaliser there. Gaitan got to the tramline and had three men on the back post but only found a blue shirt. We’re over four minutes into injury time now.

So that’s that. Chelsea head back to London with an away goal and a win in the back pocket. Not a bad night’s work.

Glenn Hoddle reckons Chelsea were ‘pretty much perfect’,  Jamie Redknapp is laughing into his sleeve at the performance of ‘the left-back’ and Souey cannot understand the fuss about JT running the dressing-room. John Obi Mikel says ‘Di Matteo is the boss, he’s the manager, everybody knows how much this game means’.

Di Matteo doesn’t put a foot wrong in the post-match talk with Sky, insisting the players deserve all the credit, the tie isn’t over, our fans were magnificent, we’re in this together. If this is the longest job interview in history, he’s through to the next round at least.

So that’s your lot. An entertaining night if not the rip-roaring soap opera the second legs promise. We’ll be back with more tomorrow night, and all the usual stuff in between. Goodnight, Lisbon.

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