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By Caroline Cheese
2218: Over and out then. Europe has delivered some first-class, solid gold, breathtakingly magnificent entertainment this week. We'll see if the Premier League can do likewise at the weekend. In the meantime, have a good Friday.
2212: Hope you'll be joining me on Saturday. There's Arsenal v Wolves, Bolton v Aston Villa, Burnley v Man City, Portsmouth v Blackburn, Stoke v Hull, Sunderland v Tottenham... Ooh, and MANCHESTER UNITED V CHELSEA.
From Dan via text: "That was a great result for Liverpool all considered. The ref had an appalling game and the atmosphere was very hostile. Benfica were incredibly lucky to remain with 11 men. Liverpool to win the return."
From Chasney on 606:
"A good result considering. Could have been worse. Let's hope for a top European night at Anfield next week and a decent ref. No qualms about the pens or red card, but he missed a lot more throughout."
From anon via text: "Arsenal, Man U, Liverpool and Fulham all played in Europe this week. Who would have predicted Fulham would be the only winners?"
From Oded Regev on 606:
"Fulham have made the same fatal mistake Everton made of conceding a late away goal. Odds against them now I'm afraid."
Europa League Macca: "Full-time in the other games as well. Hamburg ran out 2-1 winners at home to Standard Liege and it ended 2-2 between Valencia and Atletico Madrid in a cracker at the Mestalla. All to play for still in both."
2200: I make that an excellent result for 10-man Liverpool. Cracking game. More of the same next Thursday will do nicely.
2159: FULL-TIME Benfica 2-1 Liverpool
2157: Rafa Benitez is shouting instructions from the touchline, but I'd be very surprised if even Sammy Lee can hear a word he's saying. It's bedlam at the Estadio da Luz, and I love it.
2154: Into injury time at Benfica and Yossi Benayoun replaces Steven Gerrard for the final moments.
2153: That late away goal perhaps tips things slightly in Wolfsburg's favour, but you don't rule out Fulham in the Europa League in 2009/10. That's the law.
2152: FULL-TIME Fulham 2-1 Wolfsburg
Europa/Football League Macca: "It's finished 2-2 between Brighton and Southampton. It's also 2-2 in Valencia as a lovely move down the left ends with Vicente Rodriguez pulling it back for David Villa to apply a very tidy finishing touch. I wouldn't rule out another goal mind."
Wolfsburg goal: That could be crucial. The German champions get a potentially vital away goal as a well-worked corner from the right is headed in by defender Alexander Madlung.
2149: GOALFLASH Fulham 2-1 Wolfsburg (Madlung)
Europa/Football League Macca: "Sensational scenes in Spain as Atletico re-take the lead (2-1) through the unlikely figure of skipper Antonio Lopez. The wee man nods in unchallenged after a Simao corner falls to him. Valencia's Bruno Saltar then smacks a shot that hits the bar so hard it rebounds past the halfway line (slight exaggeration). Meanwhile, Lee Barnard has grabbed an 89th-minute equaliser for Southampton at Brighton. 2-2 there."
2146: A frustrating night for Fernando Torres ends with the Spanish striker replaced by David Ngog. Another firework has been chucked onto the pitch. I'm glad I'm not a fifth or sixth official tonight.
Benfica goal: Angel di Maria's cross from the left byeline hits Jamie Carragher on the hand and referee Jonas Eriksson points to the spot again. Oscar Cardozo is coolness personified as he steps up to take the penalty, putting it in almost the same place as the first, with Pepe Reina going the wrong way this time. Not sure that was a deliberate handball, but Carragher slid in with his arm up...
2142: GOALFLASH Benfica 2-1 Liverpool (Cardozo pen)
2141: PENALTY TO BENFICA
2140: Roy Hodgson has got nothing to do with the Zamora bandwagon. It started at 1542 GMT on
Sunday 6 December 2009.
2138: Cripes. What a chance for Liverpool to snatch a second away goal. Quick counter and Steven Gerrard times the pass for Fernando Torres to perfection but the Spaniard rushes the shot and drags it past the post.
BBC Sport's David Garrido at Craven Cottage: "The 'Bobby for England' chant reverberates briefly around the ground - Zamora's certainly done his World Cup chances no harm tonight just don't suggest to Roy Hodgson that he got the bandwagon rolling in the first place "
Europa League Macca: "Valencia are level against Atletico Madrid and it's an absolute spanker of a goal. The ball falls to ex-Pompey and Everton midfielder Manuel Fernandes on the edge of the area, he chests it down and then hits one with pace, dip and direction that flies into the bottom corner. It should've been worth an away goal, it was that good."
2133: At the risk of going on about it, what more does Bobby Zamora have to do to get an England chance? Goals in the Prem, goals in Europe - against Juventus and the German champions no less. Sign him up, Fabio.
2131: Angel di Maria heads forward and Jamie Carragher goes in with his foot high on Oscar Cardozo, catching him on the shoulder and getting nowhere near the ball. Another huge shout for a penalty, but nothing again.
2128: It's still harem scarem at the Estadio da Luz where Fernando Torres has had a couple of half-shouts for penalties. The Benfica fans are ENRAGED as Daniel Agger drags back Pablo Aimar. A substitution now: right-back Maxi Pereira makes way for striker Nuno Gomes (remember?).
Europa/Football League Macca: "Brighton have their noses back in front as Kazenga LuaLua sets up Ashley Barnes to nod in. Brighton 2-1 Southampton. Twenty minutes to go. At the Mestalla, Atletico are ahead but Valencia can only blame themselves. Some defending of the schoolboy variety on the halfway line leaves Sergio Aguero with a clear run on goal. He squares for Diego Forlan to finish it off and register that all-important away goal."
Fulham second goal: Fulham on fire. Two goals in three minutes. Danny Murphy finds Bobby Zamora in the box with his back to goal but the scorer of the first goal is strong enough to hold off his marker before teeing up Damien Duff to rifle in from 15 yards.
Benfica goal: Oscar Cardozo's free-kick clatters off the post and in the scramble, Emiliano Insua brings down Pablo Aimar. Pepe Reina goes the right way but Cardozo buries the spot-kick in the bottom corner.
Fulham first goal: Fulham in front. Zoltan Gera finds Bobby Zamora in the Wolfsburg half and the big striker carries the ball to the edge of the area before unleashing a superb curling effort into the corner of the net.
2122: GOALFLASH Fulham 2-0 Wolfsburg (Duff)
2122: GOALFLASH Benfica 1-1 Liverpool (Cardozo pen)
2121: PENALTY TO BENFICA
2119: GOALFLASH Fulham 1-0 Wolfsburg (Zamora)
2118: Liverpool counter and Fernando Torres takes on David Luiz, who times his challenge well and comes away with the ball.
2115: What else can happen in this game? A firework is thrown onto the pitch and explodes very close to one of those extra officials. He's holding his ear. Was it too loud? Or has he been hit? I don't know. He's OK to continue though. The Benfica fans are making all kinds of noise. This is BRILLIANT! (But throwing fireworks is not big or clever, kids)
2112: Massive shout for a penalty from Benfica as Pablo Aimar jinks into the box between Javier Mascherano and Glen Johnson. The latter appears to trip the Argentine, but the referee isn't interested. Seconds later, Oscar Cardozo heads over from only a few yards out. So many chances...
2110: Almost disaster for Fulham defender Brede Hangeland, who misses his defensive header, leaving Edin Dzeko with a free header on goal, but Dzeko is so surprised by the opportunity, he can't take advantage.
2108: Back under way at the Estadio da Luz and the Cottage da Craven.
2103: Lots of talk about Angel di Maria after a dazzling first 45 minutes for Benfica. The Argentine has been linked with Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea. This is the latest from the man himself: "I am not interested in the rumours - in England they look through everything with a magnifying glass but I don't have to worry about it. At the moment I am only interested in Benfica and I think we can win anywhere in Europe."
BBC Sport's David Garrido at Craven Cottage: "I think that's a fairly satisfactory opening 45 minutes for the home fans here - bit of a slow start, but Fulham gradually got into it and should've gone ahead through Clint Dempsey. A clean sheet the priority now, you sense "
Europa League Macca: "All change in Hamburg. Croatian Mladen Petric equalises from the spot for the German hosts a couple of minutes before the interval and then Ruud van Nistelrooy grabs another right on the stroke of HT. The whistle goes and lots for Standard coach Dominique D'Onofrio to chat about, no doubt. HT in Spain as well. Valencia 0-0 Atletico."
2054: Just before half-time at Craven Cottage, Damien Duff made a driving run to the edge of the area and teed up Clint Dempsey, who flashed a shot wide. Just before half-time at Benfica, Pepe Reina made a scrambling save from Angel di Maria to ensure Liverpool go in with a half-time lead but down to 10 men.
2052: HALF-TIME Benfica 0-1 Liverpool
2050: HALF-TIME Fulham 0-0 Wolfsburg
2050: Emiliano Insua tries to hold hands with Pablo Aimar as the Benfica man races past him. Lovely thought, but the referee clearly isn't a romantic and shows him a yellow card - which will rule him out of the second leg.
From richie4eva1 on 606:
"Whoever is lucky enough to snap up Di Maria is going to have a hell of a player on their books. The guy is absolute quality."
From Sam Gos in Reading, via text: "Benfica's method of dealing with Torres so far has been to hack him whenever he touches the ball to stop him from running at them; I can see a fair few cards here before the final whistle."
BBC Sport's David Garrido at Craven Cottage: "You know they're trying out four assistant refs in the Europa League? One of them seems to be playing in Wolfsburg defence. I don't mean that in a controversial way - he is literally standing in the German side's right-back position. Maybe he's just lonely and wants some company."
Europa League Macca: "There's been a goal in Hamburg and it's gone to the visitors. Standard Liege's DR Congo forward Dieudonne Mbokani is the scorer, heading in from a corner."
2041: Fernando Torres converts Steven Gerrard's free-kick, but the offside flag is up. Liverpool's players take aaaages to realise though. It was tight, but Torres was just off. This game is a text commentator's nightmare. Thrill a minute stuff.
2039: There wasn't a lot in Ryan Babel's push on Luisao so a straight red seems harsh, but why did he get involved at all? Only he knows. And why on earth did Luisao complain about getting a yellow card? He should have been thanking the ref.
2035: Absolutely remarkable. Crazy. Luisao is lucky not to get a red card for an abysmal challenge on Fernando Torres. The Benfica defender goes right through the back of the Liverpool striker on the halfway line - but is only booked. Ryan Babel says something to Luisao and in the ensuing scuffle, pushes him in the face a couple of times. Babel then appears to say something to the referee, who promptly flashes a straight red at the Liverpool winger.
2034: RED CARD Liverpool (Babel)
2033: Angel di Maria receives the ball about 20 yards out, takes a quick touch and sends a rising drive inches over the bar. Relief for Liverpool.
Europa/Football League Macca: "Southampton are back level in their League One game down the coast at Brighton. Dean Hammond has ensured his name goes on the scoresheet four minutes before the interval, heading in from close range from a Jason Puncheon set up."
2031: Two shots in two minutes at Craven Cottage, one for each side, but the respective 20-yard drives from Wolfsburg's Christian Gentner and Fulham's Zoltan Gera are easily saved and it remains goalless.
2029: Benfica attack down the left once more and Angel di Maria crosses for Ramires, who heads well over. He was a fair way out so that goes down as a difficult chance.
2027: Oscar Cardozo has had another half-chance for Benfica by the way. Cracking game at the Estadio da Luz.
BBC Sport's David Garrido at Craven Cottage: "Lively atmosphere here on the banks of the Thames - Fulham know they're in for a tough, probably physical, night Wolfsburg have had the best chance so far, Dzeko shooting wide."
2024: Stingy Benfica have conceded a mere 12 goals in the Portuguese league this season. Liverpool took nine minutes to breach their defence.
2023: A very subdued opening quarter of an hour at Craven Cottage with both sides wary of taking risks. The closest there has been to an effort is an Edin Dzeko shot that was mis-hit well wide.
Europa League Macca: "Action at both ends in Spain as Valencia's Pablo rounds David de Gea but then fluffs his shot in front of a semi-open goal. The visitors then go down the other end and Simao curls a beauty against the post."
2020: Frantic stuff at the Estadio da Luz, both teams on the front foot. Oscar Cardozo heads straight into the arms of Pepe Reina from Fabio Coentrao's left-wing cross.
2016: Benfica might be level. That man Angel di Maria crosses from the left and Oscar Cardozo is on the end of it, but can't control the shot and the ball goes harmlessly over.
Liverpool goal: What a start for Liverpool. Steven Gerrard is clipped by Maxi Pereira on the left, just outside the box. He rolls in the free-kick and Daniel Agger, of all people, meets it with a cheeky flicked finish off the inside of his left boot. It takes a slight deflection off the defender, but a great finish nonetheless.
2013: GOALFLASH Benfica 0-1 Liverpool (Agger)
2012: Fernando Torres picks up the ball on the left and looks to take on Luisao, but the Brazilian stays with him and concedes the corner.
2010: Ryan Babel has taken a boot in the head and needs treatment. Meanwhile, Valencia have had a goal ruled out for offside against Atletico Madrid.
Europa/Football League Macca: "First goal of the night goes to Brighton, who have gone in front after 12 minutes through Elliott Bennett. Southampton perhaps suffering a hangover from their Johnstone's Paint Trophy win at the weekend."
From Ed via text: "Cheesy - is there any reason for the obscure kick-off times in the Europa League?" None. It's just the way the Europa League rolls...
2005: Away we go then.
1959: And Craven Cottage is jumping too. Wolfsburg boss Lorenz-Gunther Kostner has just been on BBC 5 live lavishing praise on Fulham's lovely little spot by the river.
1957: As you would expect, the atmosphere is building nicely at the Estadio da Luz. As is traditional before every home match, Vitoria the eagle has flown around the stadium. Ready to rock and roll.
Europa League Macca: "Also in action tonight are Brighton and Southampton, who have qualified for the Europa League quarter-finals through their mid-table status in League One. Not really. They've just kicked off though."
From Chris, Preston, via text: "Great test for Glen Johnson tonight up against Di Maria. Will be good to see him hopefully come out on top."
Europa League Macca: "Valencia have decided to throw David Villa back in for their all-Spanish tie with Atletico Madrid, despite him sitting out the weekend after he suffered concussion. Spain coach Vicente del Bosque will be watching with his fingers crossed (probably), particularly after Cesc Fabregas's problems last night. Both sides have injury and suspension problems. Atletico lost to rivals Real at the weekend and are very much mid-table mediocrity in La Liga."
From Leroy_1 on Twitter:
"Two things to worry Liverpool fans this evening: Benfica's Europa League record, and the fact that Lucas is starting."
1939: Now. Some of you are worried I have spelt the Fulham manager's name wrong (see 1932). Thanks for the kind messages, but I have deliberately spelt it phonetically. Should I spell anything else wrong deliberately, feel free to text on 81111 (UK) or +44 7786200666 (world), go to
Europa League Macca: "I'm in a super doopa Europa mood, so will be aiming to fill you in with plenty of chat. You'll be pleased to know Ruuuuud van Nistelrooy is named in the Hamburg side, despite having a bit of a hissy fit when subbed at the weekend. He's chasing a first ever European title you know? Hamburg have been a bit rubbish of late - with one win in six - but so have Standard, who are eighth in their league. In fact, it sounds like a lot of the quarter-finalists have opted out of competing in the league this season to concentrate on the Europa."
1935: Still, Hodgson's staying upbeat. "Wolfsburg were in the Champions League, they won the league last year ahead of Bayern Munich. And Bayern Munich have just beaten Manchester United - so we have no chance."
1932: Fulham, 12th in the Prem with 38 points from 31 games, are up against Wolfsburg, ninth in this season's Bundesliga with 40 points from 28 games. Wolfsburg haven't quite hit the heights that saw them crowned German champions last season, but Woy Hodgson's side have won only once in nine games. That was a barnstorming 4-1 thrashing of Juventus though. So not as bad it sounds.
1927: TEAM NEWS Fulham v Wolfsburg Fulham boss Roy Hodgson came under fire for fielding a weakened team in the 2-0 defeat to Hull last Saturday, but he has reverted to his strongest available side with recalls for midfielders Danny Murphy, Damien Duff and Dickson Etuhu. Aaron Hughes returns in defence whilst Bobby Zamora starts up front despite his cold. Wolfsburg name the same team that beat Mainz 2-0 last Saturday, meaning that star striker Edin Dzeko is fit to start up front, despite picking up a knee injury in training on Monday. Former Newcastle striker Obafemi Martins is on the bench.
1923: Magnificently-named Benfica coach Jorge Jesus isn't taking anything for granted. "At the beginning of the season Liverpool were favourites to win the Champions League. In my opinion the two best teams so far in the Europa League will meet each other."
1919: TEAM NEWS Benfica v Liverpool With Maxi Rodriguez ineligible for Liverpool's trip to Lisbon, Lucas returns to the midfield with striker Fernando Torres supported by the central Steven Gerrard. Benfica's Pablo Aimar starts against his former boss Rafael Benitez and will play behind forward Oscar Cardozo with Angel di Maria looking to create havoc from the left.
1918: TEAMS Benfica v Liverpool Benfica: Julio Cesar, Maxi Pereira, Luisao, David Luiz, Fabio Coentrao, Javi Garcia, Ramires, Carlos Martins, Di Maria, Aimar, Cardozo. Subs: Moreira, Airton, Ruben Amorim, Nuno Gomes, Luis Filipe, Sidnei, Alan Kardec. Liverpool: Reina, Johnson, Agger, Carragher, Insua, Lucas, Mascherano, Kuyt, Gerrard, Babel, Torres. Subs: Cavalieri, Benayoun, Kyrgiakos, Ngog, Plessis, El Zhar, Pacheco.
1914: Liverpool, I think it's fair to say, couldn't have picked a harder quarter-final opponent. Not that they picked it themselves. That would be ridiculous. Benfica, as I said, are unbeaten in 25. They're the Europa League's top scorers with 21 goals. They have £40m-rated Argentine wizard Angel di Maria in their ranks. Ooh, and they thrashed Everton 7-0 over their two games in the group stage.
1908: And Hamburg face Standard Liege and Valencia meet Atletico Madrid. But you won't be hearing so much about those two games. Depends what kind of mood Europa League Macca's in I guess.
1905: Anyone managed to figure out last night's astonishing events yet? Nah, me neither. Onwards we go though, as Liverpool meet a team who are undefeated in 25 matches and Fulham face Wolfsburg in a mid-table-in-their-respective-domestic-leagues derby. Bootiful.
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