Fenerbahçe edges Benfica 1-0, getting a step closer to a historic European final
Fenerbahçe takes the advantage ahead of the return game in Lisbon. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜRELFenerbahçe has made an important step toward the first European final in its history, defeating their Portuguese rivals Benfica 1-0 in the Europa League semifinal first-leg game in front of their fans at the Şükrü Saraçoğlu stadium in Istanbul.
The Yellow Canaries, who missed a penalty in the first half, found the precious victory goal with Egemen Korkmaz's header in the 71st minute.
Though Benfica showed a more aggressive character during the early minutes, Fenerbahçe gradually took control of the game and sought danger, relying on the speed of its African striker duo. The tactic paid off as it was Moussa Sow who brought the first threats into Benfica's area. In the 17th minute, the Senegalese striker shot from short range on a pass from his Cameroonian partner in attack, Pierre Webo, but the ball was deflected to a corner by Benfica's defense. Just a minute later, Sow nearly opened the score as his header hit the crossbar.
Benfica's defense cracked again in the 45th on the Yellow Canaries' insistent pressure. Fenerbahçe was rewarded with a penalty when Ola John tackled Gökhan Gönül from behind inside the area.
But Cristian Baroni missed the incredible opportunity of opening the score, sending the ball to the sidebar. The Brazilian was in a flood of tears as the referee whistled the end of the first half.
Baroni was to create the first danger after the break in the 47th minute with a long-range shot deflected into a corner by Benfica's keeper Artur Moraes. Former Porto star, Portuguese midfielder Raul Meireles took also his chance from the same position as Baroni just a minute later, but Moraes was able once again to deflect the shot.
In the 51st minute it was the turn of Kuyt to smash the post. After picking a pass near the penalty spot, Kuyt brilliantly sent the ball where the keeper could not reach it. However Moraes managed to block the ball after it bounced back from the sidebar.
The goal sought by Fenerbahçe and denied by the posts came at the 71st minute. Egemen's header during a scramble in Benfica's area narrowly passed the line, after it bounced once again over the sidebar.
From that minute on, the Yellow Canaries managed to keep their lead, cruising to a victory that gives them a significant advantage ahead of next week's return game in Lisbon.
In the other semifinal, Chelsea took a big win on the road, beating Basel 2-1 with David Luiz's last gasp goal in the fourth minute of the injury time.