Champions League: Barcelona beats Benfica

Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto'o scored a goal each on Wednesday to take FC Barcelona into the Champions League semifinals.

updated: February 25, 2007 11:39 IST
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Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto'o scored a goal each on Wednesday to take FC Barcelona into the Champions League semifinals after a 2-0 victory over Benfica. Barcelona, which reached the semifinals for the ninth time in its history, won the two-leg series 2-0 on aggregate. The Spanish champions will play AC Milan in the semifinals on April 18 and 26. Milan beat Lyon 3-1 on Tuesday to win by the same aggregate score. Barcelona could have been eliminated at Camp Nou stadium if Luisao and Simao Sabrosa had scored from good chances in each half. Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard congratulated his players and said it was a tense game. ''It's the same with all games at this level. When you're 1-0 ahead there's no peace of mind. That's why we had to work and battle until the end. I'm happy we scored a second goal,'' Rijkaard said. ''We knew from its previous results that Benfica was good away from home. They created one or two dangerous moments which, thankfully, weren't goals,'' he added. Rijkaard said the semifinal against Milan, with which he won the Champions Cup twice as a player, scoring the winning goal against Benfica in 1990, would be ''interesting.'' Benfica coach Ronald Koeman, who scored the free kick, which won Barcelona the 1992 Champions Cup final, said his team started nervously but improved after the first half an hour. ''In the second half we controlled the game more and had a couple of chances to equalize,'' Koeman said. Ronaldinho, who scored the deciding goal in the 19th minute, missed a penalty in the fifth minute that could have given his team an earlier lead. The penalty, awarded by referee Lubos Michel, came after Petit handled an attempted pass by Mark van Bommel. Benfica goalkeeper Moretto, who hadn't conceded a goal in his three previous Champions League games since joining Benfica in January, dived to his right to push the Brazilian's rising shot around the post. ''It's hard enough to play against Barcelona. It's harder when you've got the referee against you,'' Koeman said. Ronaldinho atoned for his miss after Beto was robbed of possession by Henrik Larsson. The striker fed the ball to Eto'o, who raced to the goalline before delivering a low pass across goal. Larsson couldn't connect but Ronaldinho sidefooted home his fifth Champions League goal of the season. The goal was Barcelona's first from open play in four games. Its only goal over the period came from Ronaldinho's penalty against Real Madrid in the Spanish league on Wednesday. Benfica now needed to score to avoid elimination and nearly got one before halftime when defender Luisao headed narrowly wide from floated free kick. Barcelona also struggled to threaten the visitors' goal although Van Bommel almost added a second goal in the 40th minute, his left-footed shot from close range being parried by Moretto. The second half began with an anxious Barcelona pressing but regularly losing the ball. Benfica, which eliminated defending champion Liverpool in the previous round, started to take advantage of its rival's errors and began to threaten the goal. Barcelona breathed a collective sigh of relief when forward Simao, receiving the ball from Fabrizio Miccoli, wasted a chance to equalize following a 61st-minute counterattack. After Eto'o spurned an 84th-minute chance, goalkeeper Victor Valdes then made a diving save to push out a low drive by substitute Giorgos Karagounis. Eto'o killed off Benfica's hopes in the 89th minute when he chested down substitute Ludovic Giuly's cross, allowed the ball to bounce and shot home from close range. (AP)