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Jesus: Benfica ´did the most to win

Jorge Jesus

Benfica coach Jorge Jesus claimed his team 'did the most to win' before the penalty shootout that decided Wednesday's UEFA Europa League final.

Sevilla were crowned 2014 Europa League champions when Benfica strikers Oscar Cardozo and Rodrigo both had their penalty attempts saved, before Kevin Gameiro converted the decisive spot-kick for the Spanish club.

But it was Benfica that made most of the running during the initial 90 minutes and extra half-hour before the shootout, taking 14 shots to Sevilla's seven, although Jesus' men were unable to score.

"When you lose it is always difficult," the 59-year-old Portuguese coach told Benfica's website.

"During the 120 minutes we felt that we were team that did the most to win and we had more opportunities."

Benfica have already won Portugal's Primeira Liga and Taca da Liga this season and could complete a domestic treble if they overcome Rio Ave in the Taca de Portugal final on Sunday.

Jesus reminded both his players and Benfica supporters to immediately switch their focus to the cup final, as they also lost the Taca de Portugal last season.

"I congratulate the Benfica players and supporters, who were worthy of us once again to this end," he said.

"Now we have to look forward because we have another final on Sunday. "

The loss continued the fabled curse of Bela Guttman, as Benfica lost their seventh European final since winning consecutive European Cups in the early 1960s.

Guttman led Benfica to victory in the 1961 and 1962 European Cup finals but, when denied a pay rise, the Hungarian coach left the Lisbon-based club and reportedly declared they would never win another European title.

Wednesday's defeat was the second year in a row that Benfica fell at the final Europa League hurdle, having lost 2-1 to Chelsea last year.

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UEFA Europa League: Wigan v Rubin Kazan

Owen-Coyle

Wigan face their toughest test in the Europa League campaign so far as they host Rubin Kazan at the DW Stadium.

Owen Coyle’s side remain undefeated having drawn and won in their opening two European games while the visitors have a 100% record.

The Latics are two points behind the Russian side, with a win at home meaning they top Group D at the end of Thursday night.

The Europa League has provided a good outlet for Wigan as they continue to falter in the Championship. Last season’s FA Cup winners sit 13th in England’s second-tier having won three of the last six games, losing the other three.

Rubin’s form in the last six games has only been marginally better with two wins, a draw and three defeat to their name. The game in at the DW is the first meeting between the two sides.

Wigan are 3.30 to win at home to Rubin on Thursday evening and 3.50 to secure a draw, while the Latics can be backed at 5.00 to top Group D.

Rubin, managed by Kurban Berdyev, are without striker Jose Rondon who has a broken metatarsal. The Russian side are 2.30 to win in Wigan.

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Match betting pick: Chelsea v Benfica - Europa League Final

Chelsea-Benfica

Chelsea v Benfica: LIVE Wednesday 7.45pm

Chelsea winger Eden Hazard misses the match with a hamstring strain while John Terry's ankle problem is still being assessed and John Obi Mikel is a doubt. Frank Lampard is likely to play alongside David Luiz as the two midfield holding players with Brazilian Ramires pushed forward to join compatriot Oscar and Juan Mata in a trio playing just behind Fernando Torres. Demba Ba, signed from Newcastle United in January, is cup-tied.

Benfica right-back Maxi Pereira is suspended but they have a ready-made replacement in André Almeida. They have no other absentees, although Alan Kardec is unavailable after being left out of the club's premilinary European squad.

Rafael Benitez: "If we can do it I will be really proud because we have worked so hard in difficult circumstances... Benfica are a good team and they have experience in Europe. In a final it is 50-50 and we will see what happens. A European final is massive. Maybe you can score an early goal and change the game or concede three and have to change at half-time. You have to have confidence and belief you can do well. Your team has to have the same feeling and you have to see what happens but it depends on the other team too."

Jorge Jesus: "No Benfica player has undermined the quality of any Chelsea player or the Chelsea team (referring to Pablo Aimar's quote that the current squad is the worst since Roman Abramovich bought the club). Chelsea is an excellent team and they will finish third in the Premier League this year. They have quality... Benfica is a club that throughout its history has had an excellent performance in Europe. Benfica has recovered some of its prestige over the last few years and we want to create that kind of international prestige again."

Chelsea 6/4 Benfica 11/5 Draw 12/5

Betting pick: over 1.5 goals  2nd H  Odds: 2.20

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Europa League: Benfica - Chelsea

Benfica-Chelsea

The Europa League final may not get as much attention as the Champions League final, but it is still an extremely important competition for the participating teams.

Benfica will be taking on 2012 European champions Chelsea in the final of the competition. If it was not for Chelsea, Benfica would have been a favourite to win the title.

Chelsea’s presence means that Benfica are the underdogs, but that does not seem to worry Benfica midfielder Pablo Aimar.

In fact, Aimar thinks that Benfica have a pretty good chance of upsetting the odds since he does not think Chelsea are as good as everyone reckons them to be.

According to the Mirror, the 33-year-old has said that this could possibly be the worst Chelsea team since the start of the Roman Abramovich era.

Chelsea have only recently managed to secure a top four spot after struggling for most of the season. They are playing in the Europa League as a result of being knocked out of the Champions League in the group stages itself. They, thus, have the ignominy of being the first Champions League holders to be knocked out at the group stages.

Chelsea started the season with an opportunity to win an unprecedented seven titles, but they will now be only capable of lifting the Europa League.

“Since they have inherited a wealthy owner, this is probably the weakest Chelsea team there has been. Chelsea lost two great players in ­Didier Drogba and Michael Essien. It is amazing how much a team can change in 12 months, but that is ­football,” said the 33-year-old.

Despite this, Benfica will have reasons to be worried about Chelsea. Rafa Benitez’ men come on the back of an undefeated run that stretches to eight matches.

This has been a period of transition for Chelsea, as they have been trying to reduce the age of a squad. The team has several young players, and it does not look as a bad season looking from this perspective.



 

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Hannover fight back to draw with Twente

FC Twente 2-2 Hannover 96
Two down, Hannover earned what seemed an unlikely Group L point thanks to understitute Artur Sobiech and an own goal from Peter Wisgerhof.

twente-vs-hannover-96-s

Hannover 96 recovered from two goals down to draw with FC Twente in their opening match in UEFA Europa League Group L.

Cruising towards their tenth win in 11 games courtesy of Willem Janssen and a heavily deflected Nacer Chadli free-kick, Steve McClaren's team were pegged back by Artur Sobiech midway through the second half. The comeback was complete for Hannover six minutes later when Peter Wisgerhof put through his own net.

twente-vs-hannover-96Steve McClaren's side had already threatened before taking the lead, Luc Castaignos darting in behind and stabbing Dušan Tadic's pass wide. If that was a warning to the Bundesliga visitors it was one they did not heed. Six minutes later, a flowing move which involved Tadic and Roberto Rosales ended with Chadli freeing Janssen with a cute reverse ball. On the stretch, the midfielder turned the ball under the sprawling dive of Ron-Robert Zieler.

Buoyed by their 200th goal in UEFA competition, Twente went in search of another, Tadic glancing wide the first of three presentable opportunities before the break. The Serbian international then lifted the ball on to the roof of the net, having been played in by Chadli, before Castaignos lobbed wide.

Chadli finally left his mark on proceedings nine minutes into the second half with a free-kick which took a sizeable deflection off Jan Schlaudraff in the Hannover wall. Little had been seen of Die Roten as an attacking force yet, out of nowhere, they were given a lifeline by Sobiech on 67 minutes, the understitute finishing instinctively after Denny Landzaat failed to clear Konstantin Rausch's long-range strike.

Suddenly Twente were nervous and, with the visitors pressing, the pressure of Sobiech prompted Wisgerhof to slice a cross into his own net. In a frantic finish, Castaignos was twice denied by the legs of Zieler.

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Atlético up and running with win at Hapoel

Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC 0-3 Club Atlético de Madrid
Goals from Cristian Rodríguez, Diego Costa and Raúl García ensured that the holders made a winning start to their title defence in Group B.

hapoel-vs-atletico-de-madrid-s

Club Atlético de Madrid opened their UEFA Europa League title defence with an impressive 3-0 victory at Group B rivals Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC.

Without Falcao, UEFA Europa League top scorer in each of the past two seasons, Atlético nevertheless had few problems negotiating Hapoel. Cristian Rodríguez and Diego Costa struck in quick succession just before the interval and Raúl García rubber-stamped the victory shortly after the hour mark.

hapoel-vs-atletico-de-madridGarcía, Adrián López and Diego Costa all went close to giving the visitors an early lead, but Hapoel were quick to respond with an opportunity of their own. Tal Ben Haim's run down the left caused problems in Atlético's defence and Toto Tamuz nearly scored from close range.

Eight minutes prior to half-time, though, Atlético's pressure paid off thanks to Rodríguez's splendid strike from outside the penalty area, which fizzed into the top right-hand corner. Three minutes later the holders had a deserved 2-0 lead, López picking out Costa who rounded Édel Apoula and tapped into the empty net.

Diego Simeone's side continued to dominate after the break, with García first to be thwarted by the attentions of Apoula. The 26-year-old midfielder got his just dessert on 63 minutes, however, when he met Emre Belözoglu's corner with a clinical right-footed finish.

images/articole-sport/dnipro-vs-psv-eindhoven-s.jpg
AEL Limassol, Monchengladbach, UEFA Europa League

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AEL survive late drama to hold Mönchengladbach

AEL Limassol FC 0-0 VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach
Oscar Wendt missed a 98th-minute penalty to cap a frustrating night for the German visitors as AEL picked up a point on their group stage debut.

ael-limassol-vs-monchengladbach-s

Oscar Wendt missed a 98th-minute penalty as AEL Limassol FC held on for a dramatic point at home to VfL Borussia Mönchengladbach.

The Group C opener looked to be petering out into a goalless draw when, deep into added time, a fairly innocuous Håvard Nordtveit shot struck the sprawling Paulo Sérgio's arm. Left-back Wendt stepped up, and though he wrong-footed Matias Degra, his effort came crashing down off the crossbar. The UEFA Europa League clash therefore ended as it had begun – with the German side denied by the woodwork.

ael-limassol-vs-monchengladbachThe game was short on genuine chances, but the initial stages could not have been more open: Mönchengladbach could have been 2-0 up inside five minutes. Both opportunities came from the inside-right channel as the visitors exposed a lack of cohesion between centre-backs Dosa Júnior and Stelios Parpas. Alexander Ring screwed wastefully wide and though Mike Hanke made better connection, hitting a post, it was another let off for AEL.

The Cypriot outfit, who came so close to beating RSC Anderlecht to the UEFA Champions League, heeded the warning. Their high defensive line was withdrawn, and though the tactic ceded more possession, they always looked a threat from set pieces. As did Mönchengladbach, in a more direct sense, as Tolga Cigerci's well-struck free-kick was tipped around the upright by Degra with half-time approaching.

The visitors grew in strength as the second period wore on, pushing AEL further and further back, but a goal proved elusive. Substitutes Granit Xhaka and Igor De Camargo went close with headers that Degra pushed behind before Wendt squandered his spot kick. It means AEL travel to Olympique de Marseille in a fortnight with a maiden UEFA group stage point under their belt; Mönchengladbach host Fenerbahçe SK next time out.

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