Benfica's Enzo Perez (back) celebrates his goal with his teammates during their Portuguese Premier League soccer match against FC Pacos de Ferreira at Luz stadium in Lisbon February 24, 2013. (Photo : REUTERS/Rafael Marchante (PORTUGAL - Tags: SPORT SOCCER))
Benfica started the year as a contender for the Champions league but will wind up playing for Europa League glory. Here is how the Portuguese side wound up taking on Chelsea in the Europa League final.
Champions League Group Stage
The Portuguese squad was a favorite to get out of a group that included Barcelona, Spartak Moscow, and Celtic. The team got off to a poor start in the tournament with a 0-0 draw against Celtic, a 2-0 loss to Barcelona, and a 2-1 loss to Moscow. Benfica turned its fortunes around with a 2-0 win against Moscow in the fourth match and found a way to finish off Celtic. However, a 0-0 draw against Barcelona coupled with a Celtic win over Moscow forced the Portuguese team to settle for a Europa League berth.
Round of 32 vs. Bayern Leverkusen
Benfica took down the German side 1-0 in the opening leg and secured their berth with a 2-1 victory in the second leg. The German side never threatened as Benfica never trailed in the entire series.
Round of 16 vs. Bordeaux
Benfica benefitted from an own goal at home to win 1-0 in the opener. However, a terrific second leg performance helped the team to the quarterfinals. Once against, Benfica never trailed in the game and even scored their second goal one minute after allowing the French team to tie the game at one. When Bordeaux tied the game at two in injury time, Benfica scored another goal one minute later to earn a 3-2 win and 4-2 aggregate victory.
Quarterfinals vs. Newcastle United
The team trailed for the first time in the tournament just 12 minutes into the opening leg, but found a way to tie the score and earn a 3-1 win at home. In the second leg Benfica trailed once again but tied the game at one in injury time of the second half; a 4-2 aggregate win earned the Portuguese team a berth in the semifinals.
Semifinals vs. Fenerbaçhe
For the first time in its run, Benfica lost a game. However, after the 1-0 first leg defeat, the Portuguese bounced back with a terrific 3-1 victory.
The Europa League final takes place Wednesday, May 15, 2013.