Madrid and Chelsea both claim away wins
March 28, 2012 -- Updated 0833 GMT (1633 HKT)
Karim Benzema scored twice for Real Madrid in their comfortable victory in Cyprus.
- Real Madrid and Chelsea edge closer to the Champions League semifinals with away wins
- Karim Benzema scores twice as Real Madrid win 3-0 at Cypriot side APOEL Nicosia
- A late goal from Salomon Kalou is enough for Chelsea to claim a vital victory at Benfica
(CNN) -- Karim Benzema scored twice as Real Madrid won 3-0 at APOEL Nicosia to all but secure their place in the European Champions League semifinals.
And Jose Mourinho's side could well be joined in the last four by his former side Chelsea, who claimed a vital 1-0 success at Benfica courtesy of Salomon Kalou's late strike.
APOEL have been the fairytale story of this season's Champions League, entering the competition at the qualification stage they have continued to surprise more illustrious opponents to become the first Cypriot side to reach the quarterfinal stage.
David vs. the Galacticos: APOEL's mission impossible?
But, against the Spanish league leaders, APOEL always looked second best, failing to register a single shot on target in the whole of the 90 minutes, while conceding a remarkable 72% possession to their opponents.
Champions League preview
However, despite their dominance, Real needed three goals in the final 15 minutes to confirm their superiority.
And it was French international Benzema who finally broke the deadlock, heading home a cross from substitute Kaka.
Kaka himself added the second goal when slotting home a Marcelo pass, while Benzema secured a comfortable victory in the final minute when turning home Mesut Ozil's cross.
Madrid now appear certainties to face either Bayern Munich or Marseille in the semifinals.
Meanwhile, caretaker manager Roberto Di Matteo continues to turn Chelsea's fortunes around, following the dismissal of previous coach Andre Villas-Boas, as the London club secured a superb 1-0 victory at Benfica.
Villas-Boas had been criticized for not using Chelsea's experienced older players enough during his tenure at Stamford Bridge.
But his former assistant Di Matteo chose to leave top stars like Didier Drogba, Michael Essien and Frank Lampard on the bench -- and his decision was vindicated with Chelsea's first away win in Europe this season.
A tight match was settled 15 minutes from time when Ivory Coast international Kalou jabbed home Fernando Torres' cross from close range as Benfica slumped to a rare home defeat.
Chelsea now only need a draw in the return leg to secure a last four showdown with either defending champions Barcelona or Italian seven-time winners AC Milan.
Part of complete coverage on
Be part of CNN's coverage of European Champions League matches and join the social debate.
Jurgen Klinsmann may face his greatest footballing challenge after a tough World Cup draw for his U.S. team, says CNN's Don Riddell.
December 9, 2013 -- Updated 1020 GMT (1820 HKT)
Spain will face the Netherlands in a rematch of the 2010 World Cup final, as the draw for Brazil next year brings up some intriguing clashes.
Who will your country face at next year's World Cup finals in Brazil? See how the draw played out on our live blog.
CNN's Alex Thomas takes a brave punt on the 2014 champion ahead of Friday's World Cup draw.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1835 GMT (0235 HKT)
Pele has backed Brazil to deliver a "fantastic" World Cup amid growing fears the country will not be ready in time to host football's showpiece event.
December 4, 2013 -- Updated 1500 GMT (2300 HKT)
Adidas unveils official match ball, the Brazuca, and CEO Herbert Hainer discusses the tech behind it.
November 29, 2013 -- Updated 2209 GMT (0609 HKT)
Zahir Belounis contemplated suicide as he was stuck in Qatar for two years. But the footballer says it still deserves to host the 2022 World Cup.
November 29, 2013 -- Updated 1708 GMT (0108 HKT)
As he celebrates his 40th birthday, just what is the secret to Ryan Giggs' longevity?
Two Belgian "brain coaches" are helping transform AC Milan from big-spender to developer of young talent, says CNN's John Sinnott.
October 22, 2013 -- Updated 1457 GMT (2257 HKT)
Shootings, attempted assassinations and intimidation - welcome to Libyan football in 2013.
October 18, 2013 -- Updated 1129 GMT (1929 HKT)
Zahir Belounis' limbo existence is almost at an end. After a two-year nightmare, he has been told he will finally receive his Qatari exit visa.
October 10, 2013 -- Updated 1101 GMT (1901 HKT)
France's multicultural stars shone brightest at the World Cup 15 years ago -- now could it be Belgium's turn to do the same in Brazil next year?
Adnan Januzaj and Diego Costa have highlighted a major dilemma for international football, says CNN's John Sinnott.
CNN's Alex Thomas reports from FIFA HQ after the ruling body delayed its decision on the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
FIFA's credibility rides on finding a solution to the Qatar World Cup controversy, says CNN's Ben Wyatt.
Today's five most popular stories