Fenerbahce eyeing first European final

Reuters, ISTANBUL, Turkey

Sat, Apr 27, 2013 - Page 18

Egemen Korkmaz’s second-half header earned Fenerbahce a 1-0 win in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final against Benfica and eased the tears of teammate Cristian on Thursday.

The Turkish club hit the woodwork three times, including Cristian’s penalty which thudded against the post on the stroke of halftime, reducing the Brazilian to tears.

Luckily for the midfielder, Korkmaz made the breakthrough after 72 minutes with a header that also glanced the frame of the goal before landing narrowly over the line.

It proved enough to put Fenerbahce tantalizingly close to their first European final, although Benfica will be formidable opponents in next week’s return in Lisbon.

“Normally we are a team that delivers when we find opportunities, but tonight we couldn’t do that,” Benfica coach Jorge Jesus told reporters.

“But the result is not too bad, we will remain hopeful until the last minute of the second leg. We will be much better in Lisbon,” he said.

Fenerbahce played at a high tempo from the start as Benfica struggled to settle into their stride.

When Ola John clipped the trailing leg of Gokhan Gonul just before halftime Fenerbahce were awarded a penalty, but Cristian failed to convert it.

When Dirk Kuyt also hit the post in the second half it looked like being a frustrating night for the home side, but Korkmaz raised the roof when he finally broke the deadlock after a poor defensive header.