Frankfurt rebound against Benfica to reach Europa League semis
Eintracht Frankfurt salute their fans after defeating Benfica in a Europa League quarterfinal in Frankfurt, Germany, on Thursday, April 18. EFE-EPA/Sascha Steinbach
Valencia midfielder Dani Parejo takes a free kick against Villarreal CF during the second leg of a Europa League quarterfinal in Valencia, Spain, on Thursday, April 18. EFE-EPA/Biel Aliño
Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret (C) watches as a shot by Arsenal's Alexandre Lacazette enters the net during the second leg of a Europa League quarterfinal tie in Naples, Italy, on Thursday, April 18. EFE-EPA/Ciro Fusco
Chelsea's Pedro celebrates after scoring a goal against Slavia Prague during the second leg of a Europa League quarterfinal tie in London on Thursday, April 19. EFE-EPA/Andy Rain
Madrid, Apr 18 (efe-epa).- After losing 4-2 in the first leg, Eintracht Frankfurt topped Benfica 2-0 Thursday to level the Europa League quarterfinal tie at 4-4 and claim the semifinal berth on away goals.
The contest at Frankfurt's Commerzbank-Arena provided the day's only surprise. First-leg winners Arsenal, Chelsea and Valencia all went through as expected.
The German side, hoping to reach the final four of a European tournament for the first time since 1980, when they defeated Borussia Mönchengladbach to hoist the UEFA Cup, made Benfica pay for their excessively cautious approach.
Conceding possession, the visitors were stung in the 36th minute, when Filip Kostic scored to narrow the overall score to 4-3. With the energized home supporters behind them, Frankfurt pulled level in the 67th minute on a goal by Sebastian Rode.
Benfica tried to react, but Joao Felix - who had a hat trick in the first leg - was ineffectual and the closest the Portuguese club came was a strike by Toto Salvia with five minutes left that hit the post.
In London, Chelsea started with a 1-0 lead over Slavia Prague after winning the first leg in the Czech capital and took a 5-1 advantage to the dressing room at half-time.
Pedro led the Blues attack, scoring twice (m.5, m.27) and assisting on Olivier Giroud's goal in the 17th. He also had a role in the own goal conceded by Slavia's Simon Deli in the 9th minute.
Amid the flurry of Chelsea goals, Tomas Soucek got Slavia on the board with a tremendous header in the 25th minute, setting the stage for a second-half explosion by the squad that eliminated five-time Europa League winners Sevilla in the knockout stage of this year's tournament.
Petr Sevcik scored for Slavia five minutes after the restart and added a second three minutes later to narrow the deficit to 5-3 on aggregate, but Chelsea hung on for the victory.
Valencia had an easier time of it on Thursday, already up 3-1 after winning the first leg away, they cruised 2-0 against Villarreal on a rainy night at the Mestalla.
Villarreal are just 2 points about the LaLiga drop zone and coach Javi Calleja decided to rest key starters, while host manager Marcelino Garcia Toral also gave minutes to some unfamiliar faces with an eye toward ensuring a top-six domestic finish for Valencia.
Toni Lato scored a goal in the 13th minute and Dani Parejo converted a direct free kick 10 minutes into the second half to seal the 5-1 aggregate victory for Valencia.
Arsenal, who bested Napoli 2-0 in the first leg at the Emirates, settled the tie with Alexandre Lacazatte's goal in the 36th minute in Naples and are headed to the Europa League semifinals for the second straight year.