Fenerbahce will take a 1-0 lead to SL Benfica next week after hitting the woodwork three times, including from a missed penalty, before Egemen Korkmaz finally made the breakthrough – inevitably via the post – in an eventful UEFA Europa League semi-final tie.
The Turkish outfit had had the better of a high-tempo first half, with Moussa Sow rattling the crossbar, when they won a penalty just before the break. Cristian fired against the base of the left post, however, and when Dirk Kuyt found the frame of the goal again in the second period, it did not look like Aykut Kocaman's side's night. Egemen changed their fortunes 18 minutes from time, nodding in via the upright following a poor defensive header as Fenerbahce claimed a deserved win.
All is not lost for Benfica, with Mehmet Topal and Pierre Webó suspended for the second leg after picking up bookings tonight, though the Portuguese hopefuls will be without Ola John themselves after he received a yellow card for conceding the penalty, tripping Gökhan Gönül. His team nonetheless escaped punishment from the spot as Cristian homed in on the woodwork, just as Sow had done with a header midway through the first period.
The midfielder was crestfallen, sinking his head into his hands; but he began the second half like a man on a mission. He and Raul Meireles both tested Artur from long range before Kuyt acquainted himself with the post after a lovely turn and shot from around the penalty spot.
Benfica soon hit the woodwork themselves as Nicolás Gaitán, initially rested, bent the ball onto the outside of the post from distance. Meireles was carried off on a stretcher with an injury, but Kocaman's men did not lose their composure and eight minutes later Egemen struck – Cristian, whose corner led to the breakthrough, was a picture of relief itself.
Benfica briefly rallied, but Fenerbahce closed out the 1-0 win in relative comfort, keeping the clean sheet they desired. All the same, Webó's late booking for kicking the ball away could prove a real setback for their aspirations of following a maiden semi-final appearance in UEFA competition with a first final.
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