English League 1

Orient look in on Holmes

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Thu, 16 May 2013 12:10:00

Benfica goalkeeper Artur attempted to focus on the positives despite his side's last-gasp defeat to Chelsea in the Europa League final on Wednesday night.

The Eagles dominated for large periods in Amsterdam, particularly in a first half in which they squandered numerous chances to take the lead.

Fernando Torres made them pay by putting Chelsea in front on the hour mark and although Benfica equalised through Oscar Cardozo's penalty, the Londoners won it when Branislav Ivanovic headed home in injury time.

Artur was despondent afterwards but felt the club were now closer to ending their 51-year wait for a European trophy.

He told reporters: "We did everything we could to win and I cannot explain how we lost because everything we needed to do, we did.

"This is a squad with a lot of quality.

"We made this stage of the competition in deserved fashion and we showed to the world what Benfica are about. We showed that Benfica are now ready to start winning.

"We brought the Benfica fans to another European final after a wait of 23 years.

"This is the rebirth of a sensation that the club hasn't experienced for a while and we will continue to work in the knowledge that good things will happen soon."

Artur accepted a failure to take chances proved decisive, as it did when the sides met in last season's Champions League quarter-final which Chelsea won 3-1 on aggregate.

He added: "We were expecting Chelsea to hit us on the counter-attack but we had total control, we were better, playing some beautiful football.

"We had chances but unfortunately, like last season against them, the cagey but clinical team came out on top."

The San Siro game on Sunday was temporarily suspended because of racist abuse directed towards Balotelli and other black players by Roma fans.

"I always said that if it (racism) happened in the stadium I will just do like 'nobody says nothing and I don't care,'" former Manchester City striker Balotelli told CNN.

"But this time I think I've changed my mind a little bit. If it's going to happen one more time, then I'm going to leave the pitch because it's so stupid."

Balotelli is not the first AC Milan player to be subjected to racist abuse this year. In January, Kevin Prince-Boateng did walk off the pitch after being racially abused during a friendly against Pro Patria.

"I spoke with Prince," added Balotelli. "I was about to leave the pitch on Sunday, but they thought I wanted to leave because we had some difficulty with the game and then we are going to win 3-0.

"I said 'no, it's better we play and I will talk,' that's it.

"But if it wasn't for this reason, then I was going to leave the pitch on Sunday."

On Monday, Roma were fined 50,000 euros (?42,200) by the Lega Calcio.

The 25-year-old scored five goals last season but missed the final three months with an ankle injury which required surgery.

Holmes will be out of contract at relegated Barnet in the summer and O's boss Russell Slade is monitoring his situation as he looks to build on their seventh-placed finish.

Slade told the East London Guardian Series: "Ricky Holmes has been injured but he is someone who is on our radar.

"There is a list of strikers and midfielders we're looking at but not so much in defence because we've got plenty of cover there."

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