Lima strike stuns Juventus as Benfica look to lift the ‘curse’

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Story highlights

Benfica beat Juventus 2-1 in Europa League semifinal first leg

Substitute Lima scores stunning late winner

Benfica looking to end 52-year-old European title drought

Sevilla beat Valencia 2-0 in all-Spanish semifinal first leg

CNN  — 

Benfica’s hopes of snapping a 52-year title drought in Europe were revived by a stunning late winner from substitute Rodrigo Lima in a 2-1 victory over Serie A giants Juventus in Lisbon Thursday.

His sublime 84th minute strike left Gianluigi Buffon clutching at fresh air to leave Juventus with work to do in the second leg of the Europa League semifinal in Turin next week.

The Italian champions had looked to be in control when Carlos Tevez scored his first goal in European competition for five years to level the match at 1-1 late in the second half.

But Benfica’s top scorer Lima, on target twice as his side wrapped up their 33rd Portuguese League title at the weekend, had other ideas as he converted from Enzo Perez’s pass.

In a frantic finale, Claudio Marchisio was twice denied by home goalkeeper Artur Moraes and Benfica might have also added to their tally.

Read: Benfica and ‘the curse’ of Bela Guttmann

Ezequiel Garay headed home from a cross by Miralem Sulejmani to put Benfica ahead after only two minutes, but Juventus came more into the match after the early setback and highly-rated Paul Pogba might have leveled before Tevez struck.

The Argentina star, who has plied his trade at both Manchester United and City, was played through by Kwadwo Asamoah and slid the ball under Moraes for a vital away goal.

Benfica have not won a major trophy since winning the old European Cup in 1962, despite playing in seven finals in various competitions since, beaten by Chelsea in the title match of the Europa League last year.

By legend, the reason for their failure is a ‘curse’ placed on the side by former coach Bela Guttmann, who guided them to that last success then left over an unpaid bonus, vowing that they would never taste the same success for 100 years.

Read: Juve close on third straight Serie A title

Fine wins over English Premier League Tottenham Hotspur and Dutch side AZ Alkmaar had left Benfica with the opportunity to reach another final, but Juve have the incentive of a possible title match in their home Turin Stadium on May 14.

The Italian giants have also waited a long time for a trophy on the European stage, having not triumphed since winning the Champions League in 1996.

The other semifinal is an all-Spanish affair and in-form Sevilla beat Valencia 2-0 thanks to two goals in just three minutes in the first half.

Stephane Mbia and Carlos Bacca scored for the home side, who have won 13 of their last 16 games, including a victory over Real Madrid.