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Blues won't be standing in way of 'dream final'

IT'S hard to warm to Chelsea. There's just something about the way they carry themselves that sours any possibility of sympathy, support or celebration.

Maybe it's Roman Abramovich's cold persona or the Chelsea players' arrogance but, by the end of last night's Champions League quarter-final, Benfica had won the moral victory hands down.

They will be kicking themselves that they didn't win the game too. An agricultural tackle from Javi Garcia and a wild, two-footed lunge from skipper Maxi Pereira, gave them too big a mountain to climb in west London. The first conceded a penalty, and a goal Chelsea didn't deserve, and the second reduced Benfica to 10 men.

Even in their depleted state, they gave it a go and battered Chelsea's brittle character during a frantic final 10 minutes or so.

Benfica believed that they had better players than Chelsea and greater organisation, but it was an old Iberian failing, rickety temperament, which let them down.

While they flicked the ball from one set of feet to the next in the dying moments and toyed with lumpen defenders in blue, the notion flashed across the mind that Portugal might be worth a bit of a bet to make it to the last four in Euro 2012, given the number of absolutely top class players they have playing at home and abroad.

Under normal circumstances, that's always a wager framed by the knowledge that Portugal never deliver when expected to.

But this group of players showed an admirable confidence in their own ability. They were certainly right to believe that they had more to offer than Chelsea.

After the game, English television commentators and pundits were waving the flag for the Premier League and that was fair enough, but it was Roy Keane's ominous warning which resonated when the cheering died down.

"They will have to be at their very best to get some sort of positive result (against Barcelona in the semi-finals) because if they are as sloppy as they were against Benfica, they could be in for a right hiding," said the Irishman.

A right hiding indeed. A much safer bet than Portugal to get to the business end of the Euros would be Chelsea to lose by an aggregate margin of three when they meet Barcelona.

The Londoners were sloppy at the back and allowed Garcia to make amends for his stupid collision with Ashley Cole when he scored late on while defenders and keeper Petr Cech stood still.

But they were even more sloppy up front. Fernando Torres is haunted by football's version of the yips - and he isn't alone.

Inaccurate

Chelsea peppered the crowd behind the goal with wildly inaccurate shots and wildly improbable misses. Di Matteo left injury doubt Didier Drogba on the bench and withdrew John Terry early with the aggregate score standing at 2-0 in Chelsea's favour.

Presumably, Di Matteo was thinking about the FA Cup and Chelsea's bid for fourth place in the Premier League, but he got ahead of himself.

As soon as Terry left the pitch, Chelsea started to wobble and it was only when Raul Meireles scored a thunderous second that Stamford Bridge was able to relax.

Chelsea fans won't get much time to enjoy the win. If they are honest, they saw their team stumble into the semis and there is little to suggest that Di Matteo or his team have enough to prevent one half of the dream ticket final.

The world would like to see Real Madrid meet Barcelona in Munich and only Bayern stand between UEFA and a bonanza.


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