Portugal dominate Europa League

Porto, Benfica and Braga head into the Europa League semifinals where they will be joined by Spain's Villarreal.

    Porto now face Spain's Villarreal in the semifinals [AFP]

    Portugal made their presence known in the quarterfinal second leg Europa League games as Porto, Benfica and Braga all reached the semifinals in a European goal feast on Thursday.

    Porto led the charge, brushing aside Spartak Moscow edging closer to claiming Europe's second tier competition with a 5-2 drubbing of Spartak Moscow for a 10-3 aggregate win.

    Benfica drew their match 2-2 at PSV Eindhoven to progress 6-3 past the Dutch side and only Braga were made to work hard, moving past Dynamo Kiev on away goals despite playing 71 minutes with 10 men.

    The teams drew 0-0 in Portugal but Braga progressed to a meeting courtesy of last week's 1-1 draw in Kiev.

    With Braga meeting Benfica next, Portugal are guaranteed at least one team in the May 18 final in Dublin.

    Porto will play their two-legged semifinal against Spain's Villarreal, who completed an Iberian sweep with a 3-1 win at FC Twente that rounded off a one-sided 8-2 victory over two matches.

    Home record

    Porto, who fielded nine South Americans in their starting line-up, maintained their 100 percent record away record in the competition with seven wins out of seven.

    Striker Radamel Falcao took his Europa League tally to 11 goals this season as he was among the scorers on a chilly Moscow evening for the recently-crowned Portuguese champions.

    "We wanted to score an away goal and fortunately, we managed this, maybe in the moment in which Spartak were creating some chances," said Porto coach Andre Villas-Boas.

    "But we need to give a little more than we did today - more commitment, demand more of ourselves - to reach the final, which we really desire."

    Brazilian striker Hulk and Uruguayan midfielder Cristian Rodriguez gave Porto a 2-0 halftime lead before Colombian pair Fredy Guarin and Falcao added two more early in the second half.

    Artem Dzyuba and Brazilian striker Ari replied for Spartak before Porto substitute Ruben Micael fired in the fifth in the 89th minute.

    Porto, who have won 24 out of 26 league games this season and 12 out of 14 Europa League matches, will face Villarreal after the Spaniards scored three times in the last half hour against the Dutch champions.

    Spanish hope


    Thursday April 15

    Spartak Moscow 2-5 Porto
    Porto win 10-3 on aggregate

    PSV Eindhoven 2-2 Benfica
    Benfica win 6-3 on aggregate

    Twente 1-3 Villarreal
    Villarreal win 8-2 on aggregate

    Braga 0-0 Dynamo Kiev
    Braga win on away goals after 1-1 aggregate

    Villarreal put one foot in the semi-finals last week with a 5-1 first leg win at home, and cruised into the last four with a 3-1 second leg success in Enschede, 8-2 on aggregate.

    Twente gave themselves a glimmer of hope with Emir Bajrami's 32nd minute tap in but their Spanish visitors levelled on the hour when Giuseppe Rossi scored from the spot after Twente's Dwight Tiadealli was sent off for felling Wakaso Mubarak.

    Marco Ruben added a second penalty on 84 minutes with Cani underlining the visitor's supremacy with a superb left-footed volley on the whistle.

    Benfica, 4-1 ahead after their first leg, had a bigger scare at PSV, where Jermain Lens set up the first goal for Balazs Dzsudzsak in the 18th minute and scored the second himself seven minutes later.

    The Eagles were wobbling until captain and defender Luisao volleyed in an acrobatic goal with the last kick of the first half and Paraguay forward Oscar Cardozo levelled with a penalty in the 63rd minute.

    Braga, who knocked out Liverpool in the last round, went through on the away goals rule after a goalless stalemate at home in the second leg to follow last week's 1-1 draw in Ukraine.

    The northern Portuguese outfit had made life difficult for themselves with the 29th minute sending off of Brazil forward Paolo Case for a late challenge on Dynamo striker Andriy Yarmolenko.

    Kiev were also down a man three minutes from time when Popov picked up a second yellow card.

    "We were magnificent in terms of our posture against the situation we faced, to play for most of the match with 10 men demands a great spirit of sacrifice," said Braga coach Domingos Paciencia.

    "We were the team who created more chances to win ... anything can happen with this team."

    The first legs of the semifinals are scheduled for April 28, with the return matches a week later.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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