Benfica made things extremely interesting in the dying minutes, against all odds, but Chelsea will be going through to the UEFA Champions League semifinals, where they will face FC Barcelona. Down 2-0 on aggregate with 10 men, Benfica scored a late goal to create a nervy finish, but Raul Meireles scored a stoppage time clincher to give his team a 3-1 aggregate win.
The opener came on a penalty kick, conceded by a makeshift central defender. With all four of their central defenders out, Javi Garcia had to move back from midfield and conceded a penalty in the 20th minute, pushing down Ashley Cole. Frank Lampard stepped up and converted, after which Maxi Pereira was booked for dissent.
That became relevant in the 41st minute when Pereira committed a studs-up tackle on John Obi Mikel and was sent off. Down 2-0 on aggregate at halftime of the second leg and down to 10 men, Benfica should have been completely finished. Benfica were solid in the second half, however, and eventually made a game of it.
Chelsea had plenty of chances to finish the game off and prevent it from ever getting interesting. Ramires was the worst offender of failing to finish said chances. He had one of the best misses of the internet era.
In the 85th minute, Chelsea fell asleep on a corner kick. Garcia, who conceded the earlier goal, somehow lost the entire Chelsea team and rose up for a completely uncontested header, which he directed towards the goal. Petr Cech, just as asleep as his teammates, didn't make a great effort to stop the ball from going into the back of the net.
For the next six minutes, Benfica would knock the ball around the Chelsea box, and a winner looked very possible. Nelson Olivera had the best chance at the winner for Benfica in the 88th minute, but made a mess of it. While outside the Chelsea penalty area, he had good opportunities to play an early shot or hit a ball into the box for a teammate, but he took neither option. Instead, he stalled on the ball and eventually took a poor shot, squandering a great chance.
With only 10 men, all of them desperately pushing forward, Benfica were vulnerable on the counter. They eventually got torched on the counter. This kind of thing usually results in a tap-in, but Raul Meireles decided to clinch the win with some extra oomph.
And now Chelsea move on to face Barcelona, which should be all kinds of fun. Last time the two teams met, Didier Drogba got himself suspended for (correctly) stating that the officiating was a "f--king disgrace" on live television.