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Home teams take leads in first legs of Europa League semifinals

Apr 24, 2014, 5:12 PM EST

benfica_juventus AP

Carlos Tévez‘s late goal at the Estadio da Luz looked destined to give Juventus a valuable draw in Portugal, but thanks to a 84th blast from Lima into the top of Gianluigi Buffon’s net, Benfica was able to restore the lead it’d held for 71 minutes, giving the Portuguese champions a 2-1 lead at half time of the teams’  Europa League semifinal battle.

On the other side of the bracket, Sevilla used first half goals from Stephane M’bia and Carlos Bacca to take a 2-0 lead over fellow La Liga side Valencia ahead of next week’s return leg at the Mestalla.

The four teams are fighting for spots in May 14’s final in Turin, with Juventus favored to claim the club’s seventh major European honor. After one minute in Lisbon, however, the Old Lady’s hope of enjoying a major final at home was delivered a small blow.

That’s when Ezequiel Garay, on a second minute corner for Miralem Sulejmani, headed into the right of Gianluigi Buffon’s goal, giving the recently crowned Liga Sagres champions a quick lead. Juventus seized control of the game yet were unable to break through until the 73rd minute, when Tévez’s goal from 10 yards out threatened to send the match back to Italy even. Seven minutes from time, however, Lima beat Buffon from the right of the penalty area to give Benfica the one-goal lead – compensation for having given up a potentially valuable away goal.

At the Sanchez Pizjuan, Sevilla opened the scoring with M’Bia’s goal in the 33rd minute, a score Bacca’s far post finish three minutes later made into a two-goal advantage. Though they ceded possession throughout (holding only 41 percent of the ball), Sevilla was able to maintain that edge to the final whistle, though an 88th minute Eduardo Vargas header off Beto’s cross bar nearly duplicated Juventus’s feat of snaring an away goal.

Instead, Valencia will return home need two goals to turn climb out of the hole it’s dug in Seville. Juventus, on the other hand, could confirm that final on home soil with a 1-0 win next Thursday.

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