Sat, Apr 03, 2010 - Page 20 News List

Benfica thump 10-man Liverpool

AP AND REUTERS , HAMBURG, GERMANY, AND BERN

Benfica’s Pablo Aimar, left, fights for the ball with Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard during their Europa League quarter-final, first leg soccer match at Luz stadium in Lisbon on Thursday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Benfica’s Paraguay forward Oscar Cardozo converted two second-half penalties to help them come from behind and beat 10-man Liverpool 2-1 as the Europa League dished up more drama in the quarter-finals on Thursday.

The other three first-leg ties also produced plenty of twists and turns on another exciting night in a competition often derided as the poor relation of European club soccer.

Ruud van Nistelrooy’s winner gave Hamburg SV a 2-1 success at home to Standard Liege, the Germans also coming from behind, while David Villa scored a late equalizer to help Valencia draw 2-2 at home to Atletico Madrid in an all-Spanish clash.

Fulham — who thumped Juventus 4-1 at home in the last round to reach their first European quarter-final — continued their fine run with a 2-1 victory over German champions VfL Wolfsburg whose late goal took the gloss off the home side’s performance.

“We have got to be happy that the European adventure is very much alive here at Craven Cottage and we have taken another very famous scalp along the way,” Fulham manager Roy Hodgson said.

The match was billed as one of the west London club’s biggest, but Liverpool felt very differently about their trip to the Estadio da Luz to face Benfica in a clash of two former European champions.

Rafael Benitez’s team, in real danger of missing out on qualifying for next year’s Champions League, are looking on the Europa League as a mere consolation in a miserable season.

Liverpool were given a great start when Daniel Agger’s skilful flick silenced the home crowd after nine minutes.

However, their evening began to unravel after half an hour when their Netherlands forward Ryan Babel was sent off for a shove in the face of Benfica defender Luisao.

The hosts, starting with seven South Americans, equalized in the 59th minute when Cardozo buried a harshly awarded penalty after Emiliano Insua tangled with Pablo Aimar.

Cardozo produced a repeat 20 minutes later, again finding the bottom right corner of Pepe Reina’s goal after Jamie Carragher had blocked an Angel di Maria cross with his arm.

Valencia and Atletico Madrid produced a thriller for the 55,000 crowd at the Mestalla.

Uruguay forward Diego Forlan broke the deadlock in the 59th minute for Atletico, tapping in after Sergio Aguero had done the hard work.

Manuel Fernandes replied for Valencia with a long-range effort in the 67th, but Atletico captain Antonio Lopez headed the visitors back in front five minutes later.

Villa, set to lead Spain’s attack at the World Cup and scorer of a brilliant hat-trick in the previous round at Werder Bremen, swept home Vicente’s cross in the 82nd to equalize.

Striker Bobby Zamora belted Fulham in front after 59 minutes at Craven Cottage and Ireland winger Damien Duff struck again soon afterwards following further good work by Zamora.

Alexander Madlung headed Wolfsburg’s reply in the 89th minute.

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