Soccer-Marseille edge Benfica on penalties to reach Europa League semi-finals

Soccer Football - Europa League - Quarter Final - Second Leg - Olympique de Marseille v Benfica - Orange Velodrome, Marseille, France - April 18, 2024 Olympique de Marseille's Gael Lafont, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Faris Moumbagna celebrate winning the penalty shootout REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

MARSEILLE (Reuters) -Olympique de Marseille claimed a penalty shootout win over Benfica on Thursday to reach the Europa League semi-finals for the first time in six years after Faris Moumbagna's late second-half goal levelled the tie at 2-2 on aggregate.

Benfica's Angel Di Maria missed the first kick of the shootout striking the post and goalkeeper Pau Lopez saved Antonio Silva's effort to hand Marseille the win with all of their penalty takers scoring their first four.

Di Maria earlier had the chance to bring the Portuguese champions closer to victory, but Lopez blocked his header in the first of two vital saves for Marseille in extra time.

"I'm happy and proud. Proud of my players, their spirit, proud of the fans, proud of Marseille. We dream of these nights, we dream of everything," Marseille coach Jean-Louis Gasset said.

"A lot of players have made sacrifices, made the effort to play in positions that aren't theirs. We corrected the mistakes we made at Benfica."

The hosts broke the deadlock 11 minutes from time through Moumbagna's close-range header off Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's cross from the left.

"We're very happy, especially for the fans. We've had a complicated season, but the fans deserve this," Spanish keeper Lopez told M6.

"We gave everything we had so we're happy. This time we've been lucky enough to win. We've got to enjoy it, but we've got to focus on the league because we've still got a few games to play."

The Ligue 1 side will take on Atalanta in the semi-finals, who went down 1-0 at home to Liverpool but progressed with a 3-1 aggregate win after their shock victory at Anfield last week.

(Reporting by Janina Nuno Rios in Mexico CityEditing by Christian Radnedge and Chris Reese)

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