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September 25, 2017

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Ten-man Benfica resist a dominant Juve

TURIN, Italy -- Ten-man Benfica resisted a Juventus onslaught in a scoreless draw in Turin to qualify for their second successive Europa League final after a 2-1 aggregate win on Thursday.

With a home final on the horizon Juventus had made winning the Europa League a priority after crashing out of the Champions League earlier this season.

But despite a dominant display at Juventus Stadium, where midfielder Enzo Perez saw red for the visitors with 20 minutes remaining, Juve ultimately failed to find the goal that would have secured their place in the May 14 final.

After a dramatic finish which saw substitutes Mirko Vucinic and Lazar Markovic earn red cards following a touchline scuffle and Benfica's players engage in questionable tactics apparently designed to waste time, Juve coach Antonio Conte hit out at both the Portuguese and the referee Mark Clattenburg.

"I didn't appreciate either the attitude of our opponents or the referee," said Conte.

He added: "They had two shots on goal over the two legs and now they're into the final. In the end, the least deserving team have gone to the final.

"We gave it everything we could but it wasn't enough. Now we have to turn our attention to winning the title, which we can do on Monday against Atalanta."

Benfica coach Jorge Jesus said: "We came under a lot of pressure against a strong side featuring the likes of Carlos Tevez, Fernando Llorente and Arturo Vidal.

"But tonight we showed how we can defend."

Benfica, beaten 2-1 by Chelsea in last year's final, will now meet Sevilla in Turin after they beat fellow Spaniards Valencia on away goals following a 3-3 draw.

Juve, meanwhile, will be lamenting what might have been after a one-sided display that produced plenty of chances but no goals.

Early chances by Paul Pogba, Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal went amiss and it soon became clear Benfica seemed intent on soaking up the pressure to strike on the counter. The tactic worked wonders as the Portuguese champions' defence held firm throughout.

From a corner Carlos Tevez was left virtually unmarked to send a volley from close range just over Jan Oblak's crossbar.

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