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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Real, Chelsea gain upper hand in Champions League quarters


LONDON — Real Madrid gave APOEL Nicosia a reality check in the biggest match of the unheralded Cypriot club's history when they met Tuesday in the Champions League.

Looking to cause one of the greatest shocks in the history of the competition, APOEL came up short against the millionaires from Madrid, losing 3-0 at home to the nine-time European champions in the first leg of the quarterfinals.

All of Madrid's goals came in the final 16 minutes at a rocking GSP Stadium in Nicosia, with France striker Karim Benzema scoring twice to take his Champions League haul to 25 goals in 41 matches and Brazilian playmaker Kaka scoring the other after coming off the bench.

"Real has advanced to the next phase of the Champions League, that's for sure," APOEL coach Ivan Jovanovic said.

Chelsea also took a giant step toward the semifinals, beating Portuguese side Benfica 1-0 away courtesy of Salomon Kalou's 75th-minute goal.

"It's terrific, you couldn't have hoped for a better result," interim Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo said. "Nothing is over — there is still another 90 minutes to play. But we will have home advantage."

After producing one of the most diverse quarterfinal lineups in recent memory, the Champions League could easily end up having four of its usual contenders in the semifinals.

The two other last-eight first legs are played on Wednesday, with reigning champion Barcelona visiting AC Milan and Marseille at home to Bayern Munich, which hosts the final at the Allianz Arena on May 19.

Either Marseille or Bayern will surely be facing Madrid, which gave a confident, assured display on the tiny Mediterranean island.

After beating Lyon in the last 16, the first Cypriot team to reach the Champions League's knockout stages was looking to add an even more famous scalp on its historic run. But in the end the margin of victory could easily have been wider.

"The dream of the Champions League looks like it's over. It looks very, very, very difficult for APOEL to beat us 4-0 or 4-1 in the Bernabeu," Madrid coach Jose Mourinho said. "But I think the next dream is to be in the Champions League again."

Spurs, Everton advance


LONDON — Tottenham produced a rousing finish to beat Bolton 3-1 in the F.A. Cup quarterfinals on Tuesday, 10 days after the original match was abandoned because of Fabrice Muamba's on-field cardiac arrest.

Ryan Nelsen, Gareth Bale and Louis Saha scored in the final 16 minutes to earn Spurs a semifinal meeting against London rival Chelsea at Wembley Stadium on April 15.

It was an emotional reunion for the two teams at White Hart Lane, the scene of Muamba's collapse when the Bolton midfielder's heart stopped beating on its own for 78 minutes. He was revived by medics and is now making encouraging progress in the hospital.

"The events of 10 days ago were fresh and it was an opportunity for everybody to say thanks for the support," Bolton manager Owen Coyle said.

Everton beat Sunderland 2-0 in a quarterfinal replay, setting up a semifinal against local rival Liverpool at Wembley on April 14.

Croatia striker Nikica Jelavic's 24th-minute goal and an own goal by David Vaughan 12 minutes into the second half ended Sunderland's hopes of a return to Wembley for the first time in 14 years.

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