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Friday, April 6, 2012

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Comprehensive victory: Real Madrid's Marcelo (right) vies for the ball with APOEL Nicosia's Nuno Morais in Champions League quarterfinal action on Wednesday. AP

Real, Chelsea complete Champions League semifinal lineup

AP

LONDON — Cristiano Ronaldo's double ensured Real Madrid easily ended APOEL Nicosia's extraordinary Champions League run Wednesday and set up a semifinal with Bayern Munich, while Chelsea will next face holder Barcelona after ousting Benfica.

Already 3-0 up from the first leg, nine-time champion Madrid romped to a 5-2 victory over the first Cypriot team to even reach the knockout stages of Europe's most illustrious competition.

Ronaldo scored in each half to raise his goal tally for the season to 49, while Kaka, Jose Callejon and Angel di Maria also netted for as Jose Mourinho's Madrid reached a second successive semifinal.

"The objective has been achieved, we won and now we're in the semifinals," Ronaldo said. "Now we have Bayern, which is not going to be easy."

It was a nervier night in London for Chelsea despite going 2-0 up on aggregate in the 21st minute when Frank Lampard netted the second-leg opener from the penalty spot.

Despite Maxi Pereira being sent off in the 40th, Javi Garcia headed Benfica back into the game in the 85th as the Portuguese side threatened a late comeback. But Raul Meireles netted a stoppage-time goal to secure Chelsea's 3-1 aggregate victory and a chance to avenge the 2009 semifinal loss to Barcelona.

"Everyone has unfinished business with them," Lampard said. "They are the greatest team in the world. They are going to be favorites but we have a lot of belief in ourselves. We have to perform at our best to beat them and we believe we can do that."

Even if Chelsea managed to overcome mighty Barca, the London club could have to face a Madrid side coached by former manager Jose Mourinho in the final.

Madrid's passage to the last four never appeared in doubt at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

Ronaldo tapped Marcelo's cross into the net at the back post in the 26th and Kaka doubled the lead with a shot from the edge of the area 10 minutes later.

APOEL exploited a lapse in Madrid's concentration to pull one back, with Gustavo Manduca netting in the 67th.

But Madrid responded in the 75th with Ronaldo's free kick curling over the defensive wall into the top corner and Callejon completed an individual run with a low finish into the net five minutes later.

While APOEL pulled another back when Esteban Solari scored from the spot, di Maria lobbed the ball over goalkeeper Urko Pardo to round off Madrid's victory.

Mourinho's Inter Milan beat Bayern in the 2010 final before the Portuguese coach joined Madrid, which reached the final four for a record 23rd time.

"A very dangerous rival," Mourinho said of Bayern. "It's a semifinal I want to play, that the players want to play, I think Europe will enjoy this semifinal."

Chelsea, chasing a first Champions League title, is back in the semifinals for the first time in three years despite unconvincingly ousting Benfica.

The Blues were in control after the first leg and the quarterfinal turned further in their favor after Garcia's challenge on Ashley Cole in the penalty area led to Lampard netting from spot.

But even though Pereira was sent off following a lunge on John Obi Mikel, Benfica did not look like a side playing with 10 men.



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